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New Horizons Mission - Pluto + Charon Encounter

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Draggendrop    5,747

Nightside image shows atmosphere....

 

post-546174-0-89919500-1437790198.jpg

 

 

Speeding away from Pluto just seven hours after its July 14 closest approach, the New Horizons spacecraft looked back and captured this spectacular image of Pluto's atmosphere, backlit by the sun.

The image reveals layers of haze that are several times higher than scientists predicted.

Just seven hours after closest approach, New Horizons aimed its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) back at Pluto, capturing sunlight streaming through the atmosphere and revealing hazes as high as 80 miles (130 kilometers) above Pluto's surface. A preliminary analysis of the image shows two distinct layers of haze one about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the surface and the other at an altitude of about 30 miles (50 kilometers).

"My jaw was on the ground when I saw this first image of an alien atmosphere in the Kuiper Belt," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. "It reminds us that exploration brings us more than just incredible discoveries--it brings incredible beauty."

http://spaceref.com/pluto/nightside-image-reveals-plutos-hazy-skies.html

 

More eye candy...

 

post-546174-0-04034200-1437790308.jpg

This NASA graphic shows a view of Pluto's hazy atmosphere as seen by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015 during an historic flyby of the dwarf planet. The inset image shows the height of different haze layers on Pluto seen by New Horizons.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

 

The haze is created by the particles that scientists think eventually fall to the surface and give Pluto its reddish hue. The haze extends at least 100 miles (160 km) above the surface of Pluto, or five times higher than models predicted, according to Summers, who called the discovery "a big surprise." Scientists previously thought the upper layers of the atmosphere would be too warm for hazes to form, he said.

"We're going to need some new ideas to figure out what's going on," Summers said in a statement from NASA.

 

post-546174-0-73408700-1437790399.jpg

This photo of Pluto shows the northern region of Sputnik Planum, where flows of exotic ices have created swirl-shaped patterns much like glaciers on Earth, scientists say. NASA unveiled this image on July 24, 2015.

 

 

 

Scientists think that, unlike glaciers on Earth, the ice in Sputnik Planum is made of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane. At the frigid temperature of about minus 390 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 235 Celsius), water ice "won't move anywhere," because it is too rigid and brittle to flow, said Bill McKinnon, of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy leader of the New Horizons geology, geophysics and imaging team.

But even at such low temperatures, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane ices are "geologically soft and malleable," McKinnon said. At the news conference, McKinnon showed regions near the heart-shaped region's upper-left edge where the ice could be seen creeping around other geologic barriers and filling in craters. The images, he said, show "conclusive evidence" of ice flow that may still be happening on Pluto's surface today.

 

post-546174-0-93130200-1437790468.jpg

This annotated image of Pluto's Sputnik Planum region identifies what appears to be flows of exotic nitrogen ice on the surface of the dwarf planet. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this image of Pluto during a flyby on July 14, 2015.

 

"To see evidence of recent geological activity is simply a dream come true," McKinnon said. "The appearance of this terrain, the utter lack of impact craters on Sputnik Planum, tells us that this is really a young unit."

 

post-546174-0-66829800-1437790529.jpg

The strange surface of Pluto is clear in this view from New Horizons of the dwarf planet's southern region of Sputnik Planum, where two mountain ranges rise up from icy plains and cratered terrain has been covered by ice. The large infilled crater that is visible is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) wide.

 

 

McKinnon also noted another interesting finding that has surfaced from the New Horizons data: Pluto is very close to being perfectly spherical.

"We actually can't detect any obliqueness or out-of-roundness in the body," McKinnon said. Many other bodies in the solar system have distortions to their roundness, which "tells you about their history," he said.

"Pluto was probably spinning very, very fast after what we believe to be a giant impact that led to the formation of [Charon]," McKinnon added, noting that the gravitational pull of the two bodies on each other would have, over time, slowed down Pluto's rapid rotation.

http://www.space.com/30046-amazing-pluto-photos-glaciers-atmosphere.html

Cheers.... :)

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Draggendrop    5,747

SOFIA catches Pluto Occultation

http://spaceref.com/pluto/sofia-captures-pluto-occultation.html

sofia_pluto_occultation_945sss.thumb.jpg

In a prior post, the 747 space telescope was briefly covered, but here is a bit more data...

It is no easy task to capture the shadow of Pluto as it travels across the surface of Earth at more than 53,000 mph--but that is exactly what NASA scientists and flight crew did on the night of June 29, 2015.

In a true team effort, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA's infrared telescope successfully observed the dwarf planet as it passed in front of a distant star. This event, known as an "occultation," allowed scientific analysis of Pluto and its atmosphere by flying SOFIA at the right moment to an exact location where Pluto's shadow fell on Earth. This video shows the careful planning and real time adaption of the observatory's flight path leading up to observation, and highlights the data's contributions to the New Horizons mission.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center facility in Palmdale, California. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California is home to the SOFIA Science Center that is managed by NASA in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart.

Cheers...:)

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

And it appears that New Horizons' flyby happened at the right time, too. They think Pluto's atmosphere is collapsing, and they've witnessed it mid-stream.

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/07/new-horizons-data-shows-plutos-atmosphere-surface-features/

nh_01_stern_05_pluto_hazenew-980x551.thu

Pluto orbits the Sun once every 248 years. Ever since they had their first glimpse of Pluto's atmosphere, scientists hypothesized that following perihelion, as the icy world retreated from the Sun, temperatures would drop. That would allow the nitrogen-rich atmosphere to freeze and disappear. However, this hasn't been the case. Evidence that the atmosphere doubled puzzled scientists—until now. Data beamed back from New Horizons indicates we may be witnessing Pluto's atmosphere changing right before our eyes. Measurements taken by the REX instrument show that Pluto's atmosphere has a much lower surface pressure than expected.

The New Horizons team used two radio dishes—both part of the Deep Space Network—to beam radio waves to Pluto just as the spacecraft passed behind the planet. As the radio waves penetrated Pluto's atmosphere, they were distorted by atmospheric gas. By measuring the amount of distortion, scientists determined that Pluto's surface pressure was 1/100-thousandth that of Earth's. Meaning Pluto's surface pressure had decreased by half since the previous measurement. “For the first time we have ground truth, measuring the surface pressure at Pluto, giving us an invaluable perspective on conditions at the surface of the planet,” said New Horizons researcher Ivan Linscott of Stanford University. “This crucial measurement may be telling us that Pluto is undergoing long-anticipated global change.”

Fascinating!

Edited by BetaguyGZT
This double spacing thing is going to make me insane, hehe.
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Draggendrop    5,747

The "heart" of Pluto

The icy plains of Pluto resolved by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft stretch as wide as Texas, enveloping mountain ranges and bizarre hilly outcrops in a mosaic revealing one lobe of the distant world’s heart-shaped reservoir of exotic frozen carbon monoxide, nitrogen and methane.

The mosaic, posted here with permission, was created by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer using seven scenes captured by New Horizons’ LORRI camera.

The ice field is informally dubbed Sputnik Planum, after the first artificial satellite sent into orbit around Earth. It is part of a larger feature tentatively named Tombaugh Regio, honoring Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto at Lowell Observatory in 1930.

In the middle of Sputnik Planum, views from New Horizons’ sharp-eyed black-and-white camera show blocks of ice delineated by dark troughs. The ice features, called “polygonal terrain” by geologists, taper toward the northern edge of Sputnik Planum, where streaks in the ice appear to be flows wrapping around barrier islands near a boundary with more rugged terrain.

“It’s pretty big,” said William McKinnon, a co-investigator on the New Horizons mission from Washington University in St. Louis. “In fact, it’s just about the size of the state of Texas, and all around the periphery, and in the center of Sputnik Planum, are geological wonders.

nh_kremer_dilorenzo_1sss.thumb.jpg.531a0

“At the top of the picture, it’s really different,” McKinnon said in a press briefing Friday. “There’s a rugged landscape there — a degraded landscape — and to a geologist’s eye looks like something that has been very deeply and extensively eroded. We can tell it’s old as well because you can see, with your own eye, various impact craters of large size.

“What’s really interesting to us is the actual interaction between the Sputnik Planum and this rugged terrain to the top,” McKinnon said. “If you look carefully at the image, you can actually see a pattern that incidates the flow of viscous ice towards the scarp or cliff boundary of the rugged terrain. We call these stream lines. We interpret them to be just like glacial flow on the Earth.”

Unlike glaciers on Earth, which are made of water ice, the ice flows on Pluto are likely made of a mixture of nitrogen ice, carbon monoxide ice and methane ice. Water ice at Pluto’s temperatures, which are around minus 390 degrees Fahrenheit, is immobile and behaves like a rock, but other types of frozen material can move, according to McKinnon.

Near the southern boundary of Sputnik Planum, the icy plain is bordered by two mountain rangers — Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes — named for Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first two people to make a documented ascent of Mount Everest.

Scientists say the peaks are composed primarily of water ice, and measurements of shadows extending from Norgay Montes show the range to stand up to 11,000 feet above the surrounding plain.

A darker region on the bottom left of the mosaic, and near Pluto’s equator, is called Cthulhu Regio. Scientists believe it is part of a much more ancient geological unit than Sputnik Planum.

 http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/07/28/the-heart-of-pluto-in-high-resolution/

Charon has a red hole?

The dark red pole on Pluto's largest moon Charon may be some of the dwarf planet's own siphoned-off atmosphere. Images and data captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft suggest that the reddish region at the top of the moon could be the frozen-out atmosphere from Pluto.

"It looks like the pieces fit," New Horizons co-investigator Will Grundy of Lowell Observatory told Space.com. Grundy also serves as head of the surface composition theme team for New Horizons.

Despite this, Grundy cautioned that the idea remained speculative, and that the new images constantly arriving from the spacecraft could either support or disprove the theory. [Photos of Pluto and Its Moons]

new-horizons-charon-red-polesss.thumb.jp

 

The thin, nebulous atmosphere of Pluto was detected from Earth before New Horizons reached the dwarf planet this month, but Charon showed no signs of hosting anything similar. While tiny Pluto can cling to an atmosphere for a time, it doesn't have the gravity to keep it from slowly slipping away. Pluto and Charon are similar in size, causing many scientists to refer to it as a binary planet system.

As Pluto slowly releases its atmosphere, Charon may be close enough to capture it for a brief period. Although the gases from the dwarf planet would disperse evenly across the moon and fall upon the surface, the regions of the moon heated by sunlight may be too warm to allow it to freeze on the surface. Given the low gravity of the tiny moon, the atmosphere that escaped from Pluto may also escape from the smaller Charon. The material may only be capable of freezing outat the winter pole, pointed away from the sun.

"Only where the dead of winter is, where it hasn't seen the sun for a long time," Randy Gladstone, New Horizons co-investigator and atmospheres team theme leader, said.

In these regions, known as cold traps, the charged particles could freeze onto the surface, creating the reddish crust. As Pluto and its moons travel around the sun in its 248-Earth year orbit, Charon could continue to siphon material from its companion, freezing it onto its pole.

 

Gladstone said the idea, which he attributed to Grundy, was proposed not long ago but continued to seem more likely as they examined the evidence. Earlier last week, more than 50 people on the New Horizons team gathered together to discuss the idea, which seemed to be gaining ground. [Pluto Quiz: Are You a Plutophile?]

An alternate theory suggests that the darker terrain could be a geological feature, a large basin. Gladstone said the two could both be true; material from Pluto could be collecting within Charon's polar basin to form the red crust.

"There are probably other theories that don't involve Pluto at all," he said.

More info at the link....

 http://www.space.com/30089-pluto-moon-charon-red-pole.html

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Facts About Pluto...

pluto-new-horizons-july-2015sss.thumb.jp

Pluto, once considered the ninth and most distant planet from the sun, is now the largest known dwarf planet in the solar system. It is also one of the largest known members of the Kuiper Belt, a shadowy disklike zone beyond the orbit of Neptune thought to be populated by hundreds of thousands of rocky, icy bodies each larger than 62 miles (100 kilometers) across, along with 1 trillion or more comets. 

In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, a change widely thought of as a demotion. The question of Pluto's planet status has attracted controversy and stirred debate in the scientific community, and among thegeneral public, since then.

American astronomer Percival Lowell first caught hints of Pluto's existence in 1905 from odd deviations he observed in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus, suggesting that another world's gravity was tugging at these two planets from beyond. Lowell predicted the mystery planet's location in 1915, but died without finding it. Pluto was finally discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory, based on predictions by Lowell and other astronomers.

 

Pluto's highly elliptical orbit can take it more than 49 times as far out from the sun as Earth. Since the dwarf planet's orbit is so eccentric, or far from circular, Pluto's distance from the sun can vary considerably. The dwarf planet actually gets closer to the sun than Neptune is for 20 years out of Pluto's 248-Earth-years-long orbit, providing astronomers a rare chance to study this small, cold, distant world.

As a result of that orbit, after 20 years as the eighth planet (in order going out from the sun), in 1999, Pluto crossed Neptune's orbit to become the farthest planet from the sun (until it was demoted to the status of dwarf planet).

When Pluto is closer to the sun, its surface ices thaw and temporarily form a thin atmosphere, consisting mostly of nitrogen, with some methane. Pluto's low gravity, which is a little more than one-twentieth that of Earth's, causes this atmosphere to extend much higher in altitude than Earth's. When traveling farther away from the sun, most of Pluto's atmosphere is thought to freeze and all but disappear. Still, in the time that it does have an atmosphere, Pluto can apparently experience strong winds.

 

Composition & structure

Atmospheric composition: Methane, nitrogen. Observations by New Horizons show that Pluto's atmosphere extends as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 km) above the surface of the dwarf planet.

Magnetic field: It remains unknown whether Pluto has a magnetic field, but the dwarf planet's small size and slow rotation suggest it has little to no such field.

Chemical composition: Pluto probably consists of a mixture of 70 percent rock and 30 percent water ice.

Internal structure: The dwarf planet probably has a rocky core surrounded by a mantle of water ice, with more exotic ices such as methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen ice coating the surface.

 pluto-planet-profile-150721a-02.thumb.jp

Orbit & rotation

Pluto's rotation is retrograde compared to the solar systems' other worlds; it spins backward, from east to west.

Average distance from the sun: 3,670,050,000 miles (5,906,380,000 km) — 39.482 times that of Earth

Perihelion (closest approach to the sun): 2,756,902,000 miles (4,436,820,000 km) — 30.171 times that of Earth

Aphelion (farthest distance from the sun): 4,583,190,000 miles (7,375,930,000 km) — 48.481 times that of Earth

Pluto's moons

Pluto has five moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra, with Charon being the closest to Pluto and Hydra the most distant.

In 1978, astronomers discovered that Pluto had a very large moon nearly half the dwarf planet's own size. This moon was dubbed Charon, after the mythological demon who ferried souls to the underworld in Greek mythology.

Because Charon and Pluto are so similar in size, their orbit is unlike that of most planets and their moons. Both Pluto and Charon orbit a point in space that lies between them, similar to the orbits of binary star systems, For this reason, scientists refer to Pluto and Charon as a double dwarf planet, double planet or binary system.

Pluto and Charon are just 12,200 miles (19,640 km) apart, less than the distance by flight between London and Sydney. Charon's orbit around Pluto takes 6.4 Earth days, and one Pluto rotation — a Pluto day — also takes 6.4 Earth days. This is because Charon hovers over the same spot on Pluto's surface, and the same side of Charon always faces Pluto, a phenomenon known as tidal locking.

While Pluto has a reddish tint, Charon appears more grayish. In its early days, the moon may have contained a subsurface ocean, though the satellite probably can't support one today.

More info at the link...

http://www.space.com/43-pluto-the-ninth-planet-that-was-a-dwarf.html

For more photo's and a couple of videos....check out the Space.com link, right hand column...
http://www.space.com/43-pluto-the-ninth-planet-that-was-a-dwarf.html

Cheers....:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Vader Crater, Kirk & Spock! 'Star Wars,' 'Star Trek' Collide on Pluto Moon

Note...Full size images at the link...names hard to read until seen full size...
http://www.space.com/30139-pluto-charon-kirk-spock-vader-names.html

informal-names-charonss.thumb.jpg.f15cad
Image showing the provisional names being used by the New Horizons team for features on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. These monikers have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" universes are coming together on Pluto's big moon Charon.

The team behind NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which performed the first-ever Pluto flyby last month, has unofficially named some Charon craters after characters from both beloved sci-fi franchises.

For example, newly released maps created by the New Horizons crew reveal that Charon now has a Vader Crater, as well as impact features named after fellow "Star Wars" principals Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. And James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" series, gets his own crater, as do his shipmates Mr. Spock, Sulu and Uhura. 

 

pluto-informal-names-mapss.thumb.jpg.3c4
Image showing the informal names being used by the New Horizons team for features on Pluto. These monikers have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 The Pluto appellations, by contrast, are generally more grounded in reality, featuring real-life explorers (though two large, dark features on the dwarf planet are named after the Balrog, a type of monster in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, and Cthulhu, a god created by writer H.P. Lovecraft, respectively).

 

sputnik-planum-pluto-informal-names-anno
 Image showing the informal names being used by the New Horizons team for features on the icy Pluto plains known as Sputnik Planum. These monikers have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

The New Horizons team selected all of these monikers with help from the public — specifically, the "Our Pluto" campaign, a joint project involving NASA, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California.

People around the world suggested tens of thousands of names via the Our Pluto project during its March-April run, New Horizons team members have said.

The New Horizons team chose its favorites from this large database andsubmitted them to the IAU, which assigns "official" names to celestial bodies and their features. Vader Crater, Sputnik Planum, Nostromo Chasma and all the other appellations remain provisional until the IAU has approved them. (The IAU, of course, famously reclassified Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet" back in 2006.)

Check out the link to see the full size shot's...Thanx...

 http://www.space.com/30139-pluto-charon-kirk-spock-vader-names.html

Cheers...:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Scientists plan for New Horizons probe’s second act

10-23-2014-KBO-Flyby-Alex.thumb.jpg.93b7Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft flying by a Kuiper Belt Object. Credit: Alex Parker

New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto was the mission’s main act, but the plutonium-powered explorer is on an irreversible high-speed course barreling outward from the planets. Scientists will decide later this month to steer the spacecraft on a trajectory toward one of two newly-discovered mini-worlds in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy objects thought to be leftovers from the solar system’s creation.

 

 Scientists have two candidates to choose from — 2014 MU69 and 2014 PN70 — discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014. Little is known about the two targets other than their locations 4 billion miles from Earth, according to Simon Porter, a scientist on the New Horizons mission from the Southwest Research Institute.

 

hs-2014-35-a-web_print.thumb.jpg.360fef1 These two Kuiper Belt Objects, seen in these annotated images, were discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in a survey to find a second target for New Horizons. The objects were too faint to detect with ground-based telescopes. Credit: NASA, ESA, SwRI, JHU/APL, and the New Horizons KBO Search Team

New Horizons was expected to have about 35 kilograms, or about 77 pounds, of propellant left in its tank after the Pluto flyby, said Chris Hersman, a mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

That is enough for New Horizons to adjust its speed by up to 130 meters per second, or about 290 mph, according to mission managers.

Green said scientists will propose to NASA which of the two secondary targets to aim for some time in August, and Hersman said a series of rocket burns in late October or early November will steer New Horizons toward the object.

But most attention is on 2014 MU69 and 2014 PN70, which New Horizons would fly past in early 2019, if the mission’s second act is approved by NASA. Each object is approximately the size of Pluto’s mini-moons, roughly between 15 miles and 34 miles (25-55 kilometers) in diameter.

The object 2014 MU69 is easier to reach, requiring half the propellant needed to steer toward the other candidate target. But 2014 PN70 appears brighter and possibly larger, easing navigation on the way toward the flyby.

 

 http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/08/11/scientists-plan-for-new-horizons-probes-second-act/

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SwRI scientists study nitrogen provision for Pluto's atmosphere

The latest data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reveal diverse features on Pluto's surface and an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen gas. However, Pluto's small mass allows hundreds of tons of atmospheric nitrogen to escape into space each hour.

So where does all this nitrogen come from? Dr. Kelsi Singer, a postdoctoral researcher at Southwest Research Institute, and her mentor Dr. Alan Stern, SwRI associate vice president and the science lead for the New Horizons mission, outlined likely sources in a paper titled, "On the Provenance of Pluto's Nitrogen." The Astrophysical Journal Letters accepted the paper for publication on July 15, just a day after the spacecraft's closest encounter with the icy dwarf planet (ApJ, 808, L50).

 

 "More nitrogen has to come from somewhere to resupply both the nitrogen ice that is moving around Pluto's surface in seasonal cycles, and the nitrogen that is escaping off the top of the atmosphere as the result of heating by ultraviolet light from the Sun," said Singer. They looked at a number of different ways that nitrogen might be resupplied.

 

Singer and Stern wondered if comets could deliver enough nitrogen to Pluto's surface to resupply what is escaping its atmosphere. They also looked at whether craters made by the comets hitting the surface could excavate enough nitrogen - but that would require a very deep layer of nitrogen ice at the surface, which is not proven. The team also studied whether craters could expose more surface area, by punching through surface deposits that would likely be built up over time.

"We found that all of these effects, which are the major ones from cratering, do not seem to supply enough nitrogen to supply the escaping atmosphere over time," continued Singer. "While it's possible that the escape rate was not as high in the past as it is now, we think geologic activity is helping out by bringing nitrogen up from Pluto's interior."

And while the data weren't in before this paper was written, the newest images of Pluto show land forms that suggest heat is rising beneath the surface, with troughs of dark matter either collecting, or bubbling up, between flat segments of crust, which could be related.

"Our pre-flyby prediction, made when we submitted the paper, is that it's most likely that Pluto is actively resupplying nitrogen from its interior to its surface, possibly meaning the presence of ongoing geysers or cryovolcanism," said Stern. "As data from New Horizons comes in, we will be very interested to see if this proves true."

 

 http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SwRI_scientists_study_nitrogen_provision_for_Plutos_atmosphere_999.html

Cheers.....:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Here is a site with lots of data, pictures and animations for the whole mission...

The John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab....

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/index.php

Cheers....:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

If Pluto Keeps Spewing Nitrogen, Why Is It Still Full of It?

new-horizons-pluto-atmosphere.thumb.jpg.
Pluto's atmosphere, backlit by the sun in this image taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, contains a very high level of nitrogen despite constantly leaking it out into space. 

Something mysterious is happening on the surface of Pluto: No matter how much nitrogen the atmosphere releases into space, it's still chock-full of the stuff. New work examines the possible culprits for the stealthy nitrogen resupply, hinting at active geologic activity inside the dwarf planet.

Pluto's atmosphere has 10,000 times lower pressure than Earth's at the surface, and hundreds of tons of nitrogen are escaping every hour. Nevertheless, the atmosphere remains 98 percent nitrogen. Researchers are investigating potential sources of the nitrogen: whether it's riding in on comets, flying from impact craters or — what they think is most likely — a geological process pulling nitrogen up and out of Pluto's interior.

"More nitrogen has to come from somewhere to resupply both the nitrogen ice that is moving around Pluto's surface in seasonal cycles and the nitrogen that is escaping off the top of the atmosphere as the result of heating by ultraviolet light from the sun," Kelsi Singer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement. Singer is an expert on impact craters, and she is working with Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, to pin down the atmospheric nitrogen's source.

 

pluto_ice_flow.thumb.png.1f114a2d87bc047 New Horizons' images suggest flowing ices on the northern edge of Pluto's heart-shaped Sputnik Planum.

The gas probably isn't replenished by extra nitrogen on comets — that wouldn't bring in enough to replace the amount lost to space. And although comet impact craters could excavate some nitrogen just under the dwarf planet's surface, that wouldn't add enough either, unless there's an extremely deep layer of nitrogen ice right there (and there isn't currently any evidence for that).

The remaining option, and the one the duo suggested in their paper, published this month in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, is that activity within the dwarf planet is drawing internal nitrogen upward to be released.

"Our pre-flyby prediction, made when we submitted the paper, is that it's most likely that Pluto is actively resupplying nitrogen from its interior to its surface, possibly meaning the presence of ongoing geysers or cryovolcanism [ice volcanoes]," Stern said in the statement. Other features also support this process: New Horizons' new flyby observations reveal landforms suggestive of heat rising from the surface.

"We currently have only a tiny fraction of the data back from the New Horizons flyby, but the fact that there are young-looking areas on Pluto hints at relatively recent geological activity," Singer wrote in a NASA blog post.

Stay tuned, she said: The New Horizons spacecraft is sending back more and more detailed information collected in its July flyby, and over the coming months, researchers will learn a great deal more about the dwarf planet's inner life and atmosphere.

 

http://www.space.com/30265-pluto-nitrogen-atmosphere-mystery.html

Cheers.....:) 

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Draggendrop    5,747

There hasn't been much news this week, but I found a few items.....

Meeting Pluto: Upcoming Kavli Hangout Explores New Horizons (LIVE)

After a journey lasting nine and a half years, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft finally reached the distant world of Pluto. The 3-billion-mile (4.8 billion kilometers) expedition culminated with New Horizons sweeping a mere 7,800 miles (12,500 km) above Pluto's surface.

During the probe's flyby last month, it obtained a treasure trove of scientific data snapping — by far — the most detailed photographs ever taken of this mysterious object and its several moons. In those pictures, instead of a cratered, barren orb, as some scientists had expected, Pluto appears to be a startlingly dynamic world with soaring mountains and smooth plains of exotic ices. 

 

"The outer solar system is not a cold, barren 'dead zone'," MIT's Richard Binzel, a co-investigator on the New Horizons mission, told The Kavli Foundation after the flyby. "Active processes must be occurring on Pluto to give that diverse range of features. We have a lot of new mysteries to solve."

On Aug. 26 at 3:30 p.m. EST, join New Horizons team members Binzel and Cathy Olkin, of the Southwest Research Institute, along with Kavli Prize laureate Michael Brown, from the California Institute of Technology, for a live webcast hosted by The Kavli Foundation. These planetary scientists will your answer questions about New Horizons' voyage to Pluto and what this strange new world may have to teach about the other bodies at the solar system's fringes.

HOW TO SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Questions can be submitted ahead of and during this webcast by email to info@kavlifoundation.org or by using the hashtag #KavliLive on Google+ or Twitter. 

 

http://www.space.com/30341-quiz-pluto-team-live-in-upcoming-kavli-hangout.html

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Space.com Slideshow.....

Photos of Pluto and Its Moons

http://www.space.com/11431-photos-pluto-charon-moons-dwarf-planet.html

There are a few interesting photo's in the slide show, such as....

SP_100204_pluto-VS.thumb.jpg.864e468b4a9
Dwarf planet Pluto is seen in an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

pluto-p5-unannotated.thumb.jpg.162665406
A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. Image released July 11, 2012.

050215_pluto_announce_02.thumb.jpg.9eec3
The announcement of Pluto's discovery in 1930, put out by the Lowell Observatory a few weeks after the observations had been made and analyzed.

Cheers....:)

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Arachno 1D    7,992

Jeez the technological modern world of I want it now!.........I cant believe people on Twitter are complaining about having no new images, its not like the scientists didnt tell them it would take the better part of a year to get hi-res images from the probe.

That Hubble has certainly earned its investment over the years

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Jim K    13,635

Jeez the technological modern world of I want it now!.........I cant believe people on Twitter are complaining about having no new images, its not like the scientists didnt tell them it would take the better part of a year to get hi-res images from the probe.

That Hubble has certainly earned its investment over the years

I think a lot of people just have a hard time quantifying distances...especially with regards to the vastness of space.  If you took a "road" trip to Pluto it would take over 6000 years going at a steady 65 mph.  They also do not understand that technical difficulties or barriers with the transmission of data where your old 14.4k modem transmitted data faster.  2,000 bits per second isn't fast but New Horizons is over 3 billion miles away.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Just a few extras on the data rate.....

This site has a general description of commands/data rates for the mission...

 http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/Spacecraft/Data-Collection.php

And this is the "real time" Deep Space Network site...., once on it, choose NHPC on the right side, then on the lower left, enable "more detail", and you can scroll down to see if one ore both transmitters are running and the data rates with signal strengths...few days ago, they had both transmitters sending data, but it depends on the other missions that may also be transmitting at the same time, which are also shown....

https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html

Cheers....:)

Check out Voyager 1 if you get a chance, 19.77 billion kilometers and 159 b/sec at -158.08 dbm...that is a weak signal....

Edited by Draggendrop
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Draggendrop    5,747

Scientists eager for restart of Pluto photo pipeline

nh-pluto-in-true-colorsss.thumb.jpg.6b29
Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The first images from the New Horizons spacecraft since late July will come back to Earth on Sept. 5, and scientists are salivating over what the new pictures will reveal about Pluto.

Only about 5 percent of the 50 gigabits of data New Horizons collected during its nine-day encounter with Pluto has made it back to Earth, said Alan Stern, the mission’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute.

“Ninety-five percent of all the data are still on the spacecraft,” Stern said Tuesday. “All the best images are still on the spacecraft, all the high-resolution mapping, almost all the high-resolution composition mapping, the vast majority of radio occultation data are still on spacecraft, (along with) observations of the small moons and Charon.”

Only seven close-up images of Pluto from New Horizons’ sharp-eyed telescopic camera have been downlinked to Earth, and those files were compressed to expedite their transmission back home.

The faraway New Horizons spacecraft, now more than 3 billion miles from Earth, can only send back data at a rate of about 2 kilobits per second, a fraction of the speed of dial-up Internet. It will take more than a year for the robotic emissary to broadcast all its measurements, including hundreds of images, to eager scientists on the ground.

“Almost everything is still on the spacecraft, so we have just sampled this dessert with a few days of intensive download right after the flyby,” Stern said in a presentation Tuesday to a NASA-sponsored group of planetary scientists focused on the outer solar system.

New Horizons spent the last six weeks beaming back data on the plasma and dust environment it encountered around Pluto, crucial measurements that will help piece together the distant world’s workings and place in the solar system.

During its July 14 flyby, the mission discovered a vast Texas-sized ice plan informally named Sputnik Planum. Shaped ice blocks — called polygons by mission scientsts — make up the frozen, craterless terrain, leading geologists to believe the ice field formed less than 100 million years ago, and may still be changing today.

Data stored on New Horizons’ recorders include much higher-resolution views of Sputnik Planum, along with spectral readings that will reveal what types of ices comprise the ice field. The information will help narrow down the age of Sputnik Planum, which tapers toward a boundary with rugged mountains of water ice in the north.

The polygons in Sputnuk Planum may form from slow bubbling driven by a mysterious underground heat source. Scientists want to know if there is a liquid ocean underneath the ice sheet, which is mainly composed of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide ices at temperatures near minus 391 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

pluto_heart_of_the_heart_03sss.thumb.jpg
 New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto revealed unexpected terrain, such as these blocky patches of ice at a region dubbed Sputnik Planum. New Horizons’ LORRI camera took this image from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,00 kilometers) on July 14. The resolution is about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles). Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

The best images of Sputnik Planum on the ground show the region with a resolution of about 400 meters (1,300 feet), but New Horizons’ black-and-white camera took pictures with resolutions as high as 70 meters (230 feet), good enough to see something as small as the ponds in New York City’s Central Park.

The camera also captured images in stereo pairs — viewing the same place on Pluto from slightly different angles — to allow scientists to get an idea of the topography.

“The polygons may be related to some sort of thermal convection,” Stern said. “We will see. We will know a lot more about this, and actually get 3D imagery to know what’s higher and what’s lower before the year is out.”

The next set of Pluto images are due to arrive on Earth around Sept. 5, according to William McKinnon, a planetary geologist at Washington University in St. Louis who works on the New Horizons mission.

Scientists have a wish list of things they are eager to see once the photo pipeline resumes.

“There is so much stuff on-board that I just cannot wait to see,” said Cathy Olkin, New Horizons’ deputy project scientist from the Southwest Research Institute. “One of the things I’m really looking forward to the most is our high-resolution scan that we took of Pluto with the LEISA instrument … it’s the infrared spectrometer.

“Being able to get high-resolution infrared spectroscopy across the surface of Pluto to map those ices and to see what other minor species might be there, that we couldn’t detect when we’re looking at Pluto as a point of light from Earth,” Olkin said Wednesday in a Google Hangout hosted by the Kavli Foundation. “That’s one I’m really looking forward to getting down.”

Richard Binzel, a New Horizons co-investigator based at MIT, said he is waiting to see observations of Pluto’s night side made by the spacecraft after the flyby. Scientists hoped sunlight reflected by Pluto’s moon Charon would dimly illuminate the south pole’s ice cap, which is locked in a dark, century-long winter.

New Horizons also got close-up views of Charon on its way by Pluto.

The plutonium-powered space probe, about the size of a baby grand piano, sped by Pluto at 31,000 mph at a range of 7,700 miles. It approached within about 18,000 miles from Charon.

Only a handful of close-up views of Charon, which is more than half the size of Pluto at 790 miles acrss, have been returned from New Horizons so far. The images revealed giant chasms bigger than the Grand Canyon, a patch of puzzling dark material at its north pole and a sunlit hemisphere with few craters.

“I want to see those global high-resolution uncompressed images of Charon and really see where these big cracks have flowed out onto the surface, and maybe get some composition on what those flows might have been,” said Michael Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology who specializes in studying the Kuiper Belt, a ring of mini-worlds at the outer edge of the solar system where Pluto resides.

Brown discovered the dwarf planet Eris, an object more massive than Pluto but not quite as big, in 2005. The discovery prompted the International Astronomical Union’s decision in 2006 to demote Pluto into a new class of worlds called dwarf planets.

Brown said observations of Charon could help scientists learn about many other similar-sized objects in the Kuiper Belt.

“I think that’s going to tell us a lot about the mid-sized objects around the Kuiper Belt,” Brown said in Wednesday’s Google Hangout. “There are many, many Charon-like objects out there, and I’d like to learn more about all of them by looking at those images.”

 

http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/08/26/scientists-eager-for-restart-of-pluto-photo-pipeline/

Cheers....:)

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Jim K    13,635

Scientists have two candidates to choose from — 2014 MU69 and 2014 PN70 — discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014. Little is known about the two targets other than their locations 4 billion miles from Earth, according to Simon Porter, a scientist on the New Horizons mission from the Southwest Research Institute.

Just to follow up your post...NASA has selected the next target which will be MU69.  

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team.  Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

Early target selection was important; the team needs to direct New Horizons toward the object this year in order to perform any extended mission with healthy fuel margins. New Horizons will perform a series of four maneuvers in late October and early November to set its course toward 2014 MU69 – nicknamed “PT1” (for “Potential Target 1”) – which it expects to reach on January 1, 2019. Any delays from those dates would cost precious fuel and add mission risk.

“2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen.”

More at NASA

nh-path.png

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Jim K    13,635

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

And to think, they've only gotten back about 6% of the total data from NH collected during the flyby. Nearly all of the High-Resolution shots have yet to be uploaded.

Much more to come. :yes:

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Horizons Spacecraft begins Intensive Data Downlink Phase

dsn-stations-madrid-spain-goldstone-cali
All communications with New Horizons - from sending commands to the spacecraft, to downlinking all of the science data from the historic Pluto encounter - happen through NASA's Deep Space Network of antenna stations in (clockwise, from top left) Madrid, Spain; Goldstone, California, U.S.; and Canberra, Australia. Even traveling at the speed of light, radio signals from New Horizons need more than 4 0.5 hours to travel the 3 billion miles between the spacecraft and Earth. Image courtesy NASA. 

If you liked the first historic images of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, you'll love what's to come.

Seven weeks after New Horizons sped past the Pluto system to study Pluto and its moons - previously unexplored worlds - the mission team will begin intensive downlinking of the tens of gigabits of data the spacecraft collected and stored on its digital recorders. The process moves into high gear on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the entire downlink taking about one year to complete.

"This is what we came for - these images, spectra and other data types that are going to help us understand the origin and the evolution of the Pluto system for the first time," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. "And what's coming is not just the remaining 95 percent of the data that's still aboard the spacecraft - it's the best datasets, the highest-resolution images and spectra, the most important atmospheric datasets, and more. It's a treasure trove."

Even moving at light speed, the radio signals from New Horizons containing data need more than 4 0.5 hours to cover the 3 billion miles to reach Earth.

As a flyby mission, New Horizons was designed to gather as much information as it could, as quickly as it could, as it sped past Pluto and its family of moons - then store its wealth of data to its digital recorders for later transmission to Earth. Since late July, New Horizons has only been sending back lower data-rate information collected by the energetic particle, solar wind and space dust instruments. The pace picks up considerably on Sept. 5 as it resumes sending flyby images and other data.

During the data downlink phase, the spacecraft transmits science and operations data to NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) of antenna stations, which also provide services to other missions, like Voyager. The spacecraft's distance from Earth slows communication rates, especially compared to rates offered by today's high-speed Internet providers. With New Horizons past Pluto, the typical downlink rate is approximately 1-4 kilobits per second, depending on how the data is sent and which DSN antenna is receiving it.

"The New Horizons mission has required patience for many years, but from the small amount of data we saw around the Pluto flyby, we know the results to come will be well worth the wait," said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

The team also plans to continue posting new, unprocessed pictures from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons project website each Friday.

The images are available here; the next LORRI set is scheduled for posting on Sept. 11.

 http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Spacecraft_begins_Intensive_Data_Downlink_Phase_999.html

Photo archive link......check the "goodies" out......

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/soc/Pluto-Encounter/index.php

DSN "live" data link.....

 https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html

Later........:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Horizons Probes the Mystery of Charon’s Red Pole

 

nh-charon-1.thumb.jpg.24b8e4f6c04103b602
File photo     New Horizons     NASA

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hi, I’m Carly Howett, a senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve been working on NASA’s New Horizons mission since 2012, focusing on an instrument named Ralph, which among other things provides the color “eyes” for the spacecraft.

When I started looking at Ralph images of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, back in 2012, the bodies were so far away they appeared as just a speck of light, too close together to see separately. So you can imagine how excited I was to see Pluto and Charon not only as separate worlds this year, but with clear and different features across them. It is these differences, specifically across Charon, which have since been the focus of my work.

Surfaces vary in color when something about them changes; this difference could be due to composition (what the surface is made of) or physical state (changes between solid and liquid, or changes in their structure – for example at high-pressure carbon changes from graphite to diamond). We see this every day on Earth. For example, water looks different compared to sand and they both look different than ice. Another example of these differences is that carbon forms both the dark-colored graphite we use in pencils and clear sparkly diamonds. Looking at Charon, it’s very clear that the northern polar region is much redder than the rest of the moon. But what’s causing this color difference and why does it occur at the pole?

To answer the first part of this question we consider what we know about Charon. We know that Charon’s surface is too cold for anything other than solids to exist, and the surface isn’t subject to extreme changes in temperature and/or pressure, so it is unlikely significant phase transitions are occurring. Instead, we think that the color variation is due to a change in surface composition, which leads to the conclusion that the surface of Charon’s northern polar region is made up of different material than the rest of Charon.

One theory is that small amounts of Pluto’s atmosphere can escape and eventually reach Charon, where it would be temporarily trapped by Charon’s gravity before escaping to space. Charon’s polar regions are very cold, and I mean VERY cold! In fact, over the course of Charon’s year the polar temperature varies somewhere between -433 and -351 °F (-258 and -213 °C), which is only tens of degrees warmer than absolute zero. These temperatures (especially with Charon’s extremely thin atmosphere) are too cold to support surface liquid: gases are deposited straight to solids, and solids sublimate directly to gases. So — unlike at Charon’s warmer equator — any gases that arrive on the winter pole would freeze solid instead of escaping, a process scientists refer to as “cold trapping.” The basic principle that binary systems can share material is not new, but it took New Horizons to visit Charon to see its effect firsthand!

We know Pluto’s atmosphere is mainly nitrogen, with some methane and carbon monoxide, so we expect that these same constituents are slowly coating Charon’s winter pole. The frozen ices would sublimate away again as soon as Charon’s winter pole emerges back into sunlight, except for one important detail: solar radiation modifies these ices to produce a new substance, which has a higher sublimation temperature and can’t sublimate and then escape from Charon.

This new substance is called a tholin, and has been made in similar conditions in laboratories here on Earth. The color of the tholin produced depends on the ratios of the different molecules and the amount and type of radiation you expose them to: tholins colored from yellow to red to black have been made this way. An example of this (pictured above) shows various red tholins made in a laboratory by Sarah Hörst at Johns Hopkins University.

Charon likely has gradually built up a polar deposit over millions of years as Pluto’s atmosphere slowly escapes, during which time the surface is being irradiated by the sun. It appears the conditions on Charon are right to form red tholins similar to those shown, although we have yet to figure out exactly why. This is one of the many things I am looking forward to better understanding as we receive more New Horizons data over the next year and analyze it in conjunction with continued laboratory work.

Such an exciting time!

 

// end //

 http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=47804

Later.....:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pre weekend party photo's....

New Pluto Images from NASA

 

New close-up images of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity.

 

oonh-spherical-mosaic-9-10.thumb.jpg.7c5
Image: This synthetic perspective view of Pluto, based on the latest high-resolution images to be downlinked from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, shows what you would see if you were approximately 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) above Pluto's equatorial area, looking northeast over the dark, cratered, informally named Cthulhu Regio toward the bright, smooth, expanse of icy plains informally called Sputnik Planum. The entire expanse of terrain seen in this image is 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) across. The images were taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

"Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we've seen in the solar system," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. "If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top but that's what is actually there."

 

nh-surface-features-9-11-15.thumb.jpg.96
Image: Mosaic of high-resolution images of Pluto, sent back from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft from Sept. 5 to 7, 2015. The image is dominated by the informally-named icy plain Sputnik Planum, the smooth, bright region across the center. This image also features a tremendous variety of other landscapes surrounding Sputnik. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size, and the mosaic covers a region roughly 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) wide. The image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

New Horizons began its yearlong download of new images and other data over the Labor Day weekend. Images downlinked in the past few days have more than doubled the amount of Pluto's surface seen at resolutions as good as 400 meters (440 yards) per pixel. They reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows that apparently oozed out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys that may have been carved by material flowing over Pluto's surface. They also show large regions that display chaotically jumbled mountains reminiscent of disrupted terrains on Jupiter's icy moon Europa. 

"The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars," said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum."

 

nh-chaos-region-9-10-15.thumb.jpg.2636bd
Image: In the center of this 300-mile (470-kilometer) wide image of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is a large region of jumbled, broken terrain on the northwestern edge of the vast, icy plain informally called Sputnik Planum, to the right. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

New images also show the most heavily cratered -- and thus oldest -- terrain yet seen by New Horizons on Pluto next to the youngest, most crater-free icy plains. There might even be a field of dark wind-blown dunes, among other possibilities.

"Seeing dunes on Pluto -- if that is what they are -- would be completely wild, because Pluto's atmosphere today is so thin," said William B. McKinnon, a GGI deputy lead from Washington University, St. Louis. "Either Pluto had a thicker atmosphere in the past, or some process we haven't figured out is at work. It's a head-scratcher."

 

nh-dark-areas-9-10-15.thumb.jpg.27f4b50c
Image: This 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide view of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain; bright, smooth geologically young terrain; assembled masses of mountains; and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges that resemble dunes; its origin is under debate. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Discoveries being made from the new imagery are not limited to Pluto's surface. Better images of Pluto's moons Charon, Nix, and Hydra will be released Friday at the raw images site for New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), revealing that each moon is unique and that big moon Charon's geological past was a tortured one.

Images returned in the past days have also revealed that Pluto's global atmospheric haze has many more layers than scientists realized, and that the haze actually creates a twilight effect that softly illuminates nightside terrain near sunset, making them visible to the cameras aboard New Horizons.

"This bonus twilight view is a wonderful gift that Pluto has handed to us," said John Spencer, a GGI deputy lead from SwRI. "Now we can study geology in terrain that we never expected to see."

The New Horizons spacecraft is now more than 3 billion miles (about 5 billion kilometers) from Earth, and more than 43 million miles (69 million kilometers) beyond Pluto. The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally.

Follow the mission at http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons and http://pluto.jhuapl.edu.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/new-pluto-images-from-nasa.html

Later...:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Few extra's.......

nh-chaos-region-9-10-15.thumb.jpg.3d9b58
In the center of this 300-mile (470-kilometer) wide image of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is a large region of jumbled, broken terrain on the northwestern edge of the vast, icy plain informally called Sputnik Planum, to the right. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).

 

nh-dark-areas-9-10-15.thumb.jpg.cde40703
 

This 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide view of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain; bright, smooth geologically young terrain; assembled masses of mountains; and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges that resemble dunes; its origin is under debate. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

nh-charon_9-10-15.thumb.jpg.966ac034623e

This image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft 10 hours before its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers), is a recently downlinked, much higher quality version of a Charon image released on July 15. Charon, which is 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in diameter, displays a surprisingly complex geological history, including tectonic fracturing; relatively smooth, fractured plains in the lower right; several enigmatic mountains surrounded by sunken terrain features on the right side; and heavily cratered regions in the center and upper left portion of the disk. There are also complex reflectivity patterns on Charon’s surface, including bright and dark crater rays, and the conspicuous dark north polar region at the top of the image. The smallest visible features are 2.9 miles 4.6 kilometers) in size.
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
 
 

 

nh-twilight_9-10-15.thumb.jpg.4d47f725c9

This image of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, processed in two different ways, shows how Pluto’s bright, high-altitude atmospheric haze produces a twilight that softly illuminates the surface before sunrise and after sunset, allowing the sensitive cameras on New Horizons to see details in nighttime regions that would otherwise be invisible. The right-hand version of the image has been greatly brightened to bring out faint details of rugged haze-lit topography beyond Pluto’s terminator, which is the line separating day and night. The image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).

Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

nh-composite-haze-image-9-10-15.thumb.jp
 

Two different versions of an image of Pluto’s haze layers, taken by New Horizons as it looked back at Pluto's dark side nearly 16 hours after close approach, from a distance of 480,000 miles (770,000 kilometers), at a phase angle of 166 degrees. Pluto's north is at the top, and the sun illuminates Pluto from the upper right. These images are much higher quality than the digitally compressed images of Pluto’s haze downlinked and released shortly after the July 14 encounter, and allow many new details to be seen. The left version has had only minor processing, while the right version has been specially processed to reveal a large number of discrete haze layers in the atmosphere. In the left version, faint surface details on the narrow sunlit crescent are seen through the haze in the upper right of Pluto’s disk, and subtle parallel streaks in the haze may be crepuscular rays- shadows cast on the haze by topography such as mountain ranges on Pluto, similar to the rays sometimes seen in the sky after the sun sets behind mountains on Earth.
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

 

The New Horizons spacecraft is now more than 3 billion miles (about 5 billion kilometers) from Earth, and more than 43 million miles (69 million kilometers) beyond Pluto. The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally. 

Follow the mission at http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons and http://pluto.jhuapl.edu.  

New Horizons is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. SwRI leads the science mission, payload operations, and encounter science planning.

 
 

 

 

 http://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-pluto-images-from-nasa-s-new-horizons-it-s-complicated

:) 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Three short Utube video's dealing with the latest data, that we had in prior post....still fun to watch, two in HD

Pluto's Chaos Region Explored In New Probe Pics  (video is 2:19 min)

 

Looking Over Pluto and Charon [HD] (video is 5:11 min)

 

Pluto: Chaos Region [HD] (video is 0:57 min)

 

Later.......:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Haunting sunset vista shows foggy hazes on Pluto

 

Pluto-Wide-FINAL-9-17-15.thumb.jpg.5eba9
Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) wide. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Pluto-Low-Haze-9-17-15-FINAL-USE-2.thumb
In this small section of the larger crescent image of Pluto, taken by NASA’s New Horizons just 15 minutes after the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, 2015, the setting sun illuminates a fog or near-surface haze, which is cut by the parallel shadows of many local hills and small mountains. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers), and the width of the image is 115 miles (185 kilometers). Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Flow-Detail-Annotated-9-17-15.thumb.jpg.
Ice (probably frozen nitrogen) that appears to have accumulated on the uplands on the right side of this 390-mile (630-kilometer) wide image is draining from Pluto’s mountains onto the informally named Sputnik Planum through the 2- to 5-mile (3- to 8- kilometer) wide valleys indicated by the red arrows. The flow front of the ice moving into Sputnik Planum is outlined by the blue arrows. The origin of the ridges and pits on the right side of the image remains uncertain. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Short article and one more photo at the link...maxed out my Neowin upload again.......
http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/09/17/haunting-sunset-vista-shows-foggy-hazes-on-pluto/

Later.......:)

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Arachno 1D    7,992

Interesting stuff but how long between images as say a gaseous cloud formation might on a strange planet,be construed as say a mountain formation?

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Draggendrop    5,747

The advantage of multiple instruments, with various detection techniques. Densities can be determined to reveal whether a coloration is gas, a liquid, frozen liquid or a solid rock structure........pictures can be very deceptive at times......spectral observations and absorption characteristics can help to define the identity of the substance.........Pluto's atmosphere was sensed, quite a ways away from the planet, during initial approach.

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