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New Horizons Mission - Pluto + Charon Encounter

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Draggendrop    5,747

Video: Pluto's Spinning Moons


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Video: Pluto's Spinning Moons   NASA

Most inner moons in the solar system keep one face pointed toward their central planet; this animation shows that certainly isn't the case with the small moons of Pluto, which behave like spinning tops. Pluto is shown at center with, in order, from smaller to wider orbit: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, Hydra.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/video-plutos-spinning-moons.html

 Pluto's Spinning Moons, video is 1:05 min


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Draggendrop    5,747

Wrap up article from past weeks activities...

Part of Pluto's Heart Was 'Born Yesterday'


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By counting craters across Pluto, scientists determined that some regions of the dwarf planet are as young as 10 million years old while others are nearly as old as the 4.5-billion-year-old solar system.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Pluto has a surprisingly youthful heart — the smooth, round region on the dwarf planet'ssurface is no more than 10 million years old, a blink of an eye in the 4.5-billion-year lifetime of the solar system.

The large,western lobe of the "heart" on Pluto's surface is also known as Sputnik Planum, and it is strikingly free of craters. Thissuggeststhat geologic processes recentlysmoothedthe region over. Researchers with NASA's New Horizons mission said this is surprising, because such processes require an internal heat source, which is often lost in small bodies like Pluto.

"It's a huge finding that small planets can be active on a massive scale, billions of years after their creation," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) in Colorado, said on Monday (Nov. 9) at the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. [See more amazing Pluto photos from New Horizons]

 

The New Horizons team announced several major findings at the meeting. Besides age estimates for other regions of Pluto, the scientists announced new information about the dwarf planet's hazy, surprisingly small atmosphere; the discovery of what may be ice volcanoes on Pluto's surface; and evidence that Pluto's four smallest moons are spinning around the dwarf planet in "pandemonium."

"Born yesterday"

When NASA's New Horizons mission arrived at Pluto last July, scientists were surprised to find evidence that the dwarf planet had been resurfaced in its recent history, most likely by recent geological activity.

Because the surface of a planetary body doesn't come with a birth certificate to indicate its age, astronomers rely on techniques such as crater counting to estimate how long features have been around. The more heavily cratered an area is, the older it is expected to be, because processes such as glaciers, landslides, earthquakes, wind storms and volcanism can smooth over craters, creating a newer surface layer. Like wrinkles on people, a greater number of craters can indicate a region's advancing age.

One of the most surprising finds was the relatively smooth appearance ofTombaugh Regio, the "heart" of Pluto. On Monday, Stern announced that despite persistent examination, the New Horizons team hadn't found a single crater on Sputnik Planum, the western lobe of the heart. As a result, the estimated age for the area is no more than 10 million years old (and possibly even younger), scientists said.

"It was born yesterday," Stern said.

But just because one part of the planet has been recently refreshed doesn't mean the rest of it is just as young. Based on cratering counts, the eastern region of Tombaugh Regio is estimated to be about a billion years old, postdoctoral researcher for New Horizons Kelsi Singer, also of SWRI, said during a news briefing on Monday (Nov. 9). The region informally known as Cthulhu and the northern and midlatitudes, with their densely packed craters, are about 4 billion years old.

"We see a really wide range of ages," Singer said. "This tells us there's been ongoing activity throughout the years."

The higher ages also mean that Pluto itself must be at least around 4 billion years old, Stern said. Previous hypotheses suggested the dwarf planet could be a relatively new object that still had heat from its core driving its geological activity. Scientists had expected that heat to be lost if Pluto was an old object. But New Horizons revealed an active surface on an old planet, and internal heating is the best current guess for what's driving that activity — even if scientists don't quite know how that heat has lasted over 4 billion years. [How Was Pluto Formed?]

"We can't appeal to a young Pluto-Charon system to explain energy sources," Stern said.

 

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Snakeskin ridges on Pluto may have been shaped by surface winds, one way Pluto's atmosphere could have contributed to the dwarf planet's unusual features.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Windy, but no chance of rain.

The hazy atmosphere of Pluto, revealed earlier this year by New Horizons images, also surprised scientists. Now, researchers say the atmosphere surrounding the dwarf planet is colder and more compact than they had anticipated. Originally thought to billow out from the surface to create a bubble nearly seven to eight times larger than Pluto itself,  the extended atmosphere is only about 2.5 times larger than Pluto, the new observations show. That's still significant, but far more compact than was expected.

 

"This changes our thinking of the long-term evolution of Pluto and its atmosphere and its ices," said Leslie Young,  New Horizons deputy project scientist.

Randy Gladstone, a New Horizons co-investigator from SWRI, told Space.com that the layers of hazes suggest that the upper atmosphere of Pluto is "stagnant" and free of winds. However, a kilometer or two above the surface, winds could play a role in shaping the landscape, he said. Some scientists have suggested that winds could have helped to mold the puzzling "snakeskin'" terrain, which has no exact, known analogue anywhere else in the solar system.

Gladstone said it is more likely that the strange appearance formed as nitrogen and methane ices in the dwarf planet's crust changed directly from a solid to a gas. However, he notes that the region vaguely resembles wind-erosion patterns seen in deserts. If the surface material was soft, then high-speed winds could have helped to erode the region, he said.

"There's a lot of weird things happening near the surface that we don't understand yet," Gladstone said.

Scientists can help determine how these features formed by using a variety of models to try to create them under Pluto-like conditions.

"If they say the only way we can get snakeskin blades is by wind erosion or sandblasting, then it will be evidence for Pluto being different," Gladstone said.

In some ways, the atmosphere of Pluto resembles that of Saturn's moon Titan, with hazes dominating both worlds. On Titan, ionized particles come together to form larger charged particles in the upper atmosphere. Gladstone said that similar things may be happening on Pluto.

But while clouds on Titan rain methane, don't look for similar weather patterns on the distant dwarf planet. Gladstone said there is "no chance" of rain on Pluto, due to its thinner atmosphere.

Since the July 2015 flyby, New Horizons has sent back only about 20 percent of its data to Earth. The remaining observations will continue to arrive over the next year, providing more information about the world at the outer edges of the solar system.

"Once again, Pluto is giving us a new view of how small planets operate over their lifetime," Young said.

http://www.space.com/31080-pluto-heart-born-yesterday.html

:) 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Tyson weighs in on New Horizons' Pluto discoveries

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"Pluto's Blue Sky: Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles (called tholins) that grow as they settle toward the surface. This image was generated by software that combines information from blue, red and near-infrared images to replicate the color a human eye would perceive as closely as possible. Image courtesy NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI".

The New Horizons spacecraft completed its 3 billion mile journey to Pluto in July and the discoveries continue to pour in every week as NASA scientists receive and analyze data and images from the flyby. It will be another year before scientists on Earth receive the last of the data cache from the decade-long mission.

Some of the dozens of recent discoveries were shared last week at the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences. Of note was evidence that two of Pluto's highest mountains may be recently active cryovolcanos, or ice volcanoes. Instead of spewing lava and magma like Earth's volcanoes, they erupt a melted cocktail of water ice, nitrogen, ammonia or methane particles. And there are other aspects of Pluto's surface features that tell a compelling story about its past.

The age of a planet's surface area directly correlates to the number of impact craters. By counting thousands of impact craters, New Horizons scientists have found regions ranging in age from 4 billion years to a freshly-formed 10 million years old, indicating that the dwarf planet has been alive with geological activity throughout much of its existence.

The most publicized (and perhaps romanticized) discoveries, announced last month, are water-ice deposits on the surface and a stunning blue sky reminiscent of Earth's own atmosphere.

Astrobiology Magazine sat down with astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson to get his take on these findings. He's the author of The Pluto Files and a famed accomplice in the demotion of Pluto from its prior planet status, a deed yielding him endless hate mail from ele mentary school children.

It seems inevitable that each time NASA publishes a captivating discovery from the New Horizons mission, people, possessed by a nostalgia of the nine-planet solar system models of their youth, attempt to tout the findings as evidence that Pluto is, in fact, a planet.

In this interview, Tyson reminds us why, precisely, Pluto remains unqualified as a planet (no matter what new discoveries are made) and why that doesn't dampen his interest in the King of the Kuiper Belt. "Some of the most interesting places in the Solar System are not planets at all," he said. And he insists that Pluto's blue sky, although interesting, is a bit over-celebrated.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (NDT): We've seen some cool results recently with Pluto in regard to the water-ice discovered on the surface as well as its kind-of blue haze. I think people have overstated this notion of a blue sky. People presume that it's as though if you were on Pluto looking up in broad daylight with the Sun in the sky that the sky would be blue.

That's not the case. All the results are showing is that when sunlight appears through the rarified atmosphere of Pluto, it filters in such a way that it gives the atmosphere a bluish hue. It would be blue for the same reasons that our atmosphere is blue. If you are on Pluto looking up through it, you're not going to see that blue. It's especially enhanced by the method through which they made the measurements.

It's good to learn something about Pluto every couple of weeks because not long ago we hardly knew anything about Pluto so I embrace any and all results as they come trickling in.

I was as surprised as everybody else that Pluto has fascinating surface features. Pluto's not just some victim of its environment, just riddled with craters from stuff that hit it. It's got mountains the size of the Rockies I'm told. So that means some interesting geologic activity-Plutologic activity-has taken place there and that remains to be understood and studied. I look forward to what we learn from that.

And it always resurrects the same old question - will we reconsider whether Pluto is a planet? Of course the definition of a planet has nothing to do with anything that was happening on its surface.

But it satisfies the criteria for dwarf planet. It doesn't make it any less interesting a place. Some of the most interesting places in the Solar System are not planets at all. They include the moons of Jupiter and moons of Saturn. So I think people are too distracted by labels. Instead of being distracted by labels lets instead become enchanted by the data.

Lindsey N. Walker (LW): To clarify, it's the fact that Pluto doesn't clear its orbit which is what disqualifies it as a planet?

NDT: In case you need reminding, there are three sort of 'rules and regulations' for becoming a planet. One of them is you need to be large enough for gravity to shape you into a sphere. For example, the moons of Mars are very small-just a dozen miles across. That's not large enough for the mass of that moon to shape it into a sphere so it has the shape of, like, a rock. It looks like an Idaho Potato orbiting Mars. Both Phobos and Deimos look like Idaho potatoes.

Pluto is clearly large enough to be a sphere. It has enough gravity to shape it into a sphere. So by that criterion it would be a planet. However, it has to satisfy two more conditions.

Secondly, it has to be the primary object in orbit around the Sun. Pluto's moon, Charon, is also large enough to be a sphere. But we're not calling it a planet because it is not the major object in the Pluto-Charon system. The main object is Pluto. So we speak of Pluto as the object and Charon as the moon of the object.

Third criterion-this is where Pluto fails (poor Pluto)- the object must have cleared its orbit of interplanetary debris. One way to think of this is-how much stuff is in orbit around the Sun in your zone? Earth has a lot orbiting in its zone, but if you add up all that mass, it pales in comparison to the mass of the Earth. So Earth really owns its zone. Pluto, however, has countless thousands of other icy bodies in orbit out there in what we call the Kuiper Belt of icy objects. And the total mass of all the objects far exceeds that of Pluto.

Pluto does not own its space. And this is how we distinguish things like the Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt. There happens to be one lone asteroid that's massive enough to become a sphere-called Ceres-the very first asteroid ever discovered.

But it hasn't cleared its orbit. So Ceres was elevated from asteroid to dwarf planet and Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet. And that's something people don't think about much-not everybody got demoted the day those were invoked.

LW: What types of celestial bodies lie below dwarf planet?

NDT: Then you get moon or asteroid or comet.

LW: So then dwarf planets and other subsequent bodies don't ever have to clear their orbits.

NDT: Correct. It's not that they don't have to, it's that they haven't. And that becomes the defining feature of it.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Tyson_weighs_in_on_New_Horizons_Pluto_discoveries_999.html

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Draggendrop    5,747

Composite images compare sunlit faces of Pluto

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On approach to Pluto in July 2015, the cameras on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured the planet rotating over the course of a full Pluto day. The best available images of each side of Pluto taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

New composite images released by NASA show Pluto lit up by the sun. The images were taken by New Horizons' cameras as the probe approached the dwarf planet and its moon.

The fully illuminated portraits are arranged like the face of a clock, each of them revealing different portions rotating in front of the sun's rays. A full rotation is achieved as the eyes follow the changing faces around the clock.

Each portrait is a composite image, combining the sharpest versions of each half. The blurrier halves reveal the sides of Pluto and Charon that were facing away when the probe made its closest approach.

The farthest and most blurry of the Pluto shots was taken at a distance of 5 million miles, snapped on July 7. The sharper half shows Pluto and its heart-shaped feature, Tombaugh Regio, from 400,000 miles, taken on July 13.

New Horizons is now many hundreds of thousands of miles away from Pluto, pushing into the Kuiper Belt and setting its sights on even more distant and mysterious objects at the edge of the solar system.

 http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Composite_images_compare_sunlit_faces_of_Pluto_999.html

Bigger image from...
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/image.php?gallery_id=2&image_id=381

Day-on-Pluto-FINAL.thumb.jpg.3f2fc85bb29

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Horizons Returns First, Best Images of Pluto

 

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The Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum: In this highest-resolution image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains. "The mountains bordering Sputnik Planum are absolutely stunning at this resolution," said New Horizons science team member John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute. "The new details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce our earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations."
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

 

Quote

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto it obtained during its July flyby – and the best close-ups of Pluto that humans may see for decades.

Each week the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft transmits data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14. These latest pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel – revealing features less than half the size of a city block on Pluto’s diverse surface.  In these new images, New Horizons captured a wide variety of cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains. 

“These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on planet Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, former astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “New Horizons thrilled us during the July flyby with the first close images of Pluto, and as the spacecraft transmits the treasure trove of images in its onboard memory back to us, we continue to be amazed by what we see."

These latest images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide on a world 3 billion miles away. The pictures trend from Pluto’s jagged horizon about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, over the shoreline of Sputnik, and across its icy plains. (To view the strip in the highest resolution possible, click here and zoom in.)

 “These new images give us a breathtaking, super-high resolution window into Pluto’s geology,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there already – down among the craters, mountains and ice fields – less than five months after flyby! The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable."

video is 0:50 min.....

 

 

This movie is composed of the sharpest views of Pluto that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its flyby on July 14, 2015. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel – revealing features smaller than half a city block on Pluto’s diverse surface. The images include a wide variety of cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains – giving scientists and the public alike a super-high resolution view of Pluto’s complexity.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

 

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Layered Craters and Icy Plains: This highest-resolution image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveals new details of Pluto’s rugged, icy cratered plains, including layering in the interior walls of many craters. "Impact craters are nature's drill rigs, and the new, highest-resolution pictures of the bigger craters seem to show that Pluto's icy crust, at least in places, is distinctly layered,” said William McKinnon, deputy lead of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, from Washington University in St. Louis. "Looking into Pluto’s depths is looking back into geologic time, which will help us piece together Pluto's geological history.”
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

 

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Pluto’s ‘Badlands’: This highest-resolution image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows how erosion and faulting have sculpted this portion of Pluto’s icy crust into rugged badlands topography.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

 

Quote

The images above were captured with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, about 15 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto – from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual “point and shoot,” LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images.

These new images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Pluto’s cousin Triton, Neptune’s large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.

Mission scientists expect more imagery from this set over the next several days, showing even more terrain at this highest resolution.

Last Updated: Dec. 4, 2015

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-horizons-returns-first-best-images-of-pluto

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Just came across this treat......

 

A Distant Close-up: New Horizons’ Camera Captures a Wandering Kuiper Belt Object

 

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently took the closest images ever of a distant Kuiper Belt object – demonstrating its ability to observe numerous such bodies over the next several years if NASA approves an extended mission into the Kuiper Belt.

 

In a short animation, consisting of four frames taken by the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on Nov. 2, 2015, and spaced an hour apart, one can see this 90-mile (150-kilometer)-wide ancient body, officially called 1994 JR1, moving against a background of stars. When these images were made, 1994 JR1 was 3.3 billion miles (5.3 billion miles) from the sun, but only 170 million miles (280 million kilometers) away from New Horizons – setting a record, by a factor of at least 15, for the closest-ever picture of a small body in the Kuiper Belt, the solar system’s “third zone” beyond the inner, rocky planets and outer, icy gas giants. 

 

Mission scientists plan to use images like these to study many more ancient Kuiper Belt objects from New Horizons if an extended mission is approved. New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, making the first close-up observations of Pluto and its family of five moons. The spacecraft is on course for a close flyby of another Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019.

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Spotting a KBO: New Horizons image of 1994 JR1, taken Nov. 2, is the closest-ever picture of a Kuiper Belt object. (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

 

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20151204b

 

We are actually seeing an object moving in the Kuiper belt....way too neat........:D 

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Visualization of Space Environment at Pluto

 

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Simulating space weather at Pluto

 

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This video shows a simulation of the space environment all the way out to Pluto in the months surrounding New Horizons' July 2015 flyby.

 

At the time, scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, worked with the New Horizons team to test how well their models-and other models contributed by scientists around the world-predicted the space environment at Pluto.

 

Understanding the environment through which our spacecraft travel can ultimately help protect them from radiation and other potentially damaging effects. Visualizers at Goddard recently updated the movie of the model, creating this new release.

 

Though the vacuum of space is about a thousand times emptier than a laboratory vacuum, it's still not completely empty. The sun releases a constant stream of particles called the solar wind-as well as occasional denser clouds of particles known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs-both containing embedded magnetic fields.

 

The density, speed, and temperature of these particles, as well as the direction and strength of the embedded magnetic fields, make up the space environment.

 

To map the space environment at Pluto, scientists combined the predictions of several models-and looked at events that had long since passed Earth.

 

"We set the simulation to start in January of 2015, because the particles passing Pluto in July 2015 took some six months to make the journey from the sun," said Dusan Odstrcil, a space weather scientist at Goddard who created the Enlil model.

 

The Enlil model, named for the Sumerian god of the wind, is one of the primary models used to simulate the space environment near Earth and is the basis for the New Horizons simulation.

 

The new, combined model tracks CMEs longer than ever before. Because particles must travel for many months before reaching Pluto, the CMEs eventually spread out and merge with other CMEs and the solar wind to form larger clouds of particles and magnetic field.

 

These combined clouds stretch out as they travel away from the sun, forming thin ring shapes by the time they reach Pluto-quite different from the typical balloon shape of CMEs seen here at Earth.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Visualization_of_Space_Environment_at_Pluto_999.html

 

Simulating Space Weather at Pluto
NASA.gov Video, video is 0:56 min

 

 

 

The above is derived from data sources and displayed in a way similar to SolarHam

http://www.solarham.net/

 

At the above site, check out middle left side, CME Prediction Models, select it to run and do a real time visual presentation.

:)

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Unobscured Vision    2,678

Absolutely fascinating to see how much energy those CME's lose as they travel. Even at Saturn they appear to still have more than half the energy they left the Sun with, and then those energies fall off a cliff (literally) as they approach Uranus, by and Neptune they are less than 5~10% of what they were and extremely diffuse.

 

Wow. :)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Fresh off the press....

 

Rugged swath of Pluto now resolved in color

 

color-swath-use-12-10-15_closeup.thumb.j

A cosmic shoreline is pictured here, where the vast icy plain informally named Sputnik Planum borders rugged mountains made of water ice blocks standing up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) tall. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

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A high-resolution scan of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft published last week is now available in color, thanks to a new image release from NASA on Thursday showing craters, mountains and glaciers in a new light.

Scientists created the color images by combining data from New Horizons’ black-and-white telescopic camera, named LORRI, with the probe’s color imager, which has less resolution.

A mosaic made up of multiple LORRI image frames shows a swath of Pluto about 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) long, stretching from the distant world’s horizon to Sputnik Planum, a Texas-sized ice sheet that makes up part of Pluto’s distinctive heart-shaped feature discovered by New Horizons on its final approach.

New Horizons’ LORRI camera quickly snapped photos just before the closest point of its July 14 flyby, taking pictures every three seconds with short exposure times to avoid blurring the images as the spacecraft sped past Pluto. About 25 minutes earlier, a color camera inside the probe’s Ralph instrument scanned Pluto’s surface to register color data.

Analysts had to stack the highest-resolution black-and-white images, which NASA released Dec. 4, with coarser color imagery to generate the views published Thursday.

Check out the full-resolution version of the Pluto image scan.

Full res of slice from below image....approx 5 mb

color-swath-use-12-10-15-vertical.jpg

 

 

 

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The high-resolution strip covers a swath of Pluto from its horizon, across cratered “badlands” and the al-Idrisi mountain range northwest of Sputnik Planum, then onto the relatively flat ice sheet. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

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Objects smaller than half a city block — about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel — are resolved in the raw black-and-white images captured by the LORRI instrument. For comparison, that is five times better than the sharpest views obtained of Neptune’s moon Triton by NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in 1989.

“The mountains bordering Sputnik Planum are absolutely stunning at this resolution” said John Spencer, a New Horizons science team member. “The new details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce our earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations.”

Alan Stern, the chief scientist on the New Horizons mission, said the images are among the best recorded by New Horizons during its historic July 14 encounter with Pluto, when the probe became the first to ever visit the faraway world.

More images are still stored inside New Horizons’ data recorder for future downlinks to Earth.

http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/12/10/rugged-swath-of-pluto-now-resolved-in-color/

 

Wow...now that was an image......:D

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BinaryData    777

This is probably one of the most interesting topics I've discovered on Neowin.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Zooming in on Pluto's Pattern of Pits

 

new-horizons-pattern-pits-pluto-tombaugh

On July 14 the telescopic camera on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took the highest resolution images ever obtained of the intricate pattern of "pits" across a section of Pluto's prominent heart-shaped region, informally named Tombaugh Regio. The image is part of a sequence taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft passed within 9,550 miles (15,400 kilometers) of Pluto's surface, just 13 minutes before the time of closest approach. Image courtesy NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. 

 

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On July 14 the telescopic camera on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took the highest resolution images ever obtained of the intricate pattern of "pits" across a section of Pluto's prominent heart-shaped region, informally named Tombaugh Regio.

 

Mission scientists believe these mysterious indentations may form through a combination of ice fracturing and evaporation.

 

The scarcity of overlying impact craters in this area also leads scientists to conclude that these pits - typically hundreds of yards across and tens of yards deep - formed relatively recently.

 

Their alignment provides clues about the ice flow and the exchange of nitrogen and other volatile materials between the surface and the atmosphere.

 

The image is part of a sequence taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft passed within 9,550 miles (15,400 kilometers) of Pluto's surface, just 13 minutes before the time of closest approach.

 

The small box on the global view shows the section of the region imaged in the southeast corner of the giant ice sheet informally named Sputnik Planum.

 

The magnified view is 50-by-50 miles (80-by-80 kilometers) across. The large ring-like structure near the bottom right of the magnified view - and the smaller one near the bottom left - may be remnant craters.

 

The upper-left quadrant of the image shows the border between the relatively smooth Sputnik Planum ice sheet and the pitted area, with a series of hills forming slightly inside this unusual "shoreline."

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Zooming_in_on_Plutos_Pattern_of_Pits_999.html

 

larger image...1.84 MB

 

pressimage12-10-15-image-only.jpg

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,678

Looks like a sublimination region -- where the ices can melt and re-stock the thin atmosphere again. I betcha that's what we're looking at here.

 

Love it. LOVE IT. :D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Epic Pluto Photo Brings Cratered Plains and Jagged Faults Into Focus

 

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A long, winding mosaic photo reveals the face of Pluto in all its dizzying, baffling variety.

 

Researchers are only beginning to uncover all of Pluto's complexity with the results from the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past the dwarf planet in July. At the American Geophysical Union's annual winter meeting in San Francisco, New Horizons team members came together to discuss the latest discoveries and puzzles posed by the distant dwarf planet. But first, here's the epic new photo:

link to full size image.....go here and then scroll to image text and select larger image...this is large and detailed, unlike the generic inserted in this post ....

http://www.space.com/31411-pluto-epic-surface-photo.html

 

 

pluto-column-image.thumb.jpg.83340c7f9ec

This image, taken by New Horizons' Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), was taken just before the craft's closest approach to the dwarf planet. To see details as small as 500 yards across, click "view full size image."
Credit: NASA

 

Quote

"Pluto has greatly exceeded our expectations in diversity of landforms and processes — processes that continue to the present," Alan Howard, a geologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and a scientific collaborator on the New Horizons project, said in a statement released along with the photo.

 

The top of the image shows simple cratered plains, unchanged by time, but the picture quickly grows more complex. Further down, the image reveals jagged faults, suggesting large-scale processes at work within the dwarf planet. Then, the photo reaches the dark (informally named) Cthulhu Regio and its strange overlap with the bright, active ices at the edge of the flat Sputnik Planum. Finally, the strange, 2.5-mile-high (4 kilometers) potential ice volcano Wright Mons appears with an oblong shadow just before the darkness, while the rest of the world is in the shadow of night.

Over the five months since New Horizons made its closest pass to Pluto, it has transmitted photographic data and measurements taken during the flyby that reveal more about conditions on the icy world and the geological activity on its surface. For instance, the glaciers that carve up Pluto's surface form elaborate networks of eroded valleys — including "hanging valleys," like those in Yellowstone National Park, where a dip between two large ridges still stands higher than the surrounding area, NASA officials said in the statement.

 

Researchers are modeling the nitrogen and other strange, solid ices that cover the left side of Sputnik Planum (Pluto's "heart") and are finding that it could be "up to a few miles thick," officials said. The model helps to explain the polygon-shaped formations found on the plain: As the nitrogen evaporates and condenses higher up, the glaciers flow back inward.

 

The New Horizons team is also examining the haze of atmosphere that flows out of the dwarf planet and how it varies — as well as how that haze interacts with the charged particles of the solar wind that's stripping it away over time. As the researchers collect more data, they're gaining a firmer picture of that push and pull.

 

And this is only the beginning. "We're much less than halfway through transmitting data about the Pluto system to Earth, but a wide variety of new scientific results are already emerging," Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, said in the statement.

http://www.space.com/31411-pluto-epic-surface-photo.html

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto through a Stained Glass Window

 

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As New Horizons flew by Pluto, it recorded spectacular images of the icy world’s surface using the LORRI and MVIC cameras. It recorded the plasma and dust environments with the PEPSSI, SWAP, and SDC instruments. But one instrument, designed to measure the composition of Pluto and Charon’s surfaces, did something you might not expect: it recorded the first movies from the edge of our solar system.

 

Recorded with a 256 x 256 pixel camera at under two frames per second, they are not exactly HDTV. However, they are movies. And they are in color. Sort of.

 

The instrument is LEISA, New Horizons’ infrared imaging spectrometer. It is an extremely clever instrument; it takes 2-D images just like a normal camera, but it takes them through a linearly-varying filter. One side of the camera can only see light of one specific wavelength of infrared light (light that has longer wavelengths than can be seen by our eyes), and each row of pixels can see a subtly different wavelength.

 

This linear filter allows light with wavelengths as short as 1.25 microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter; human eyes can perceive light with wavelengths as short as 0.39 microns to long as 0.7 microns) to fall on one side of the image sensor, and smoothly changes to allow light with wavelengths as long as 2.5 microns to fall on the far side of image sensor. This wavelength range was selected because many ices and other materials that exist on the surface of Pluto that have spectral features in this wavelength range that can uniquely identify them, like a fingerprint. We use this instrument to map the distribution of these ices and other materials across Pluto and its moons. A second linear filter to one side of the imager is designed to provide a finer measurement of the spectrum in a region of particular interest between wavelengths of 2.1 to 2.25 microns.

 

LEISA-Instrument-schematic-1024x698.thum

Figure 1: A simplified schematic of the how the LEISA instrument works. As the scene (in this case, Pluto) moves by along the scan direction, the imager records many frames of video in sequence, imaging each part of Pluto though each segment of the linear filter and building up a spectral map of the entire object. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

 

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The effect is much like looking through a stained glass window designed for infrared eyes. By scanning this image sensor with its linear filter across a scene and quickly recording many images during the scan (like a movie), LEISA builds up a two-dimensional map of the scene in front of the camera with a measurement of the infrared spectrum (the brightness versus wavelength) at every location in the image. It makes this complex measurement with exactly zero moving parts — highly reliable for deep-space operations.

 

The side-effect of collecting this scientifically-important data set, capable of measuring the composition of every location on the surface of Pluto and Charon that is imaged, is that LEISA collected low frame rate infrared color movies of Pluto and Charon as seen by New Horizons during its flyby.

The animation shown here is one such movie collected by New Horizons during its flyby of Pluto. Each pixel is colored to show the relative wavelength of light that each pixel was allowed to see by LEISA’s linear filter. However, since LEISA sees in infrared light, the colors LEISA can see have been re-mapped for this video onto the human visual spectrum — the rainbow. The video has been sped up from its raw frame rate to show the motion smoothly.

 

In this animation, Pluto drifts by outside the spacecraft as New Horizons scans LEISA across the surface. As Pluto slides beneath the camera, you can see it nod back and forth from the top of the frame to the bottom — these changes in direction are due to New Horizons thrusters firing during the recording of the movie.

 

This is what you would have actually seen if you were on board the New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, looking out at Pluto through a stained glass window with infrared eyes.

https://blogs.nasa.gov/pluto/2015/12/24/pluto-through-a-stained-glass-window-a-movie-from-the-edge-of-our-solar-system/

 

Pluto Through Stained Glass: A Movie from the Edge of the Solar System

video is 0:19 min.

 

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

U.S. Post Office to Issue Pluto & Planetary Stamps

 

pluto_explored_stamps.thumb.jpg.b55fd3b3

Credit: USPS

 

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WASHINGTON (USPS PR) — In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond.

 

“The New Horizons project is proud to have such an important honor from the U.S. Postal Service,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons lead scientist from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. “Since the early 1990s the old, ‘Pluto Not Yet Explored’ stamp served as a rallying cry for many who wanted to mount this historic mission of space exploration. Now that NASA’s New Horizons has accomplished that goal, it’s a wonderful feeling to see these new stamps join others commemorating first explorations of the planets.”

 

The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s image of Pluto taken near its closest approach.

 

The view — which is color enhanced to highlight surface texture and composition — is a composite of four images from New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), combined with color data from the imaging instrument Ralph that clearly reveals the now-famous heart-shaped feature. Antonio Alcalá was the art director. The stamps will be dedicated between May 28 and June 4 at the World Stamp Show – NYC 2016 at the Jacob Javitz Center.

 

stamps_planets.thumb.jpg.df692916c59e9bc

Credit: USPS

 

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With this pane of 16 Forever stamps, the Postal Service showcases some of the more visually compelling full-disk images of the planets obtained during this era. Eight new colorful Forever stamps, each shown twice, feature Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

 

Some show the planets’ “true color” — what we might see if traveling through space. Others use colors to represent and visualize certain features of a planet based in imaging data. Still others use the near-infrared spectrum to show things that cannot be seen by the human eye invisible light.

 

The verso text, or text on the back of the stamp pane, explains what these images reveal and identifies the spacecrafts and powerful telescopes that helped obtain them. Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, was the art director and designer of the stamps. The stamps will be dedicated between May 28 and June 4 at the World Stamp Show – NYC 2016 at the Jacob Javitz Center.

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/12/30/post-office-issue-pluto-planetary-stamps/#more-57168

 

Quote

These missions have changed the course of human understanding regarding our place among the stars, but one world remained elusive, Pluto, and a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) in 1991 painfully reminded the explorers among us of that fact for 25 years. It was part of a set honoring NASA’s exploration of the planets across our solar system.

 

But the Pluto stamp was very different from the others. It said simply “Not Yet Explored”, had no spacecraft displayed with the planet, and had an inaccurate image, simply because no spacecraft had ever been there, yet.

http://www.americaspace.com/?p=90272

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

A New Pluto Wonder? Possible Ice Volcanoes Spotted (Video)

 

Quote

The more scientists learn about Pluto, the more interesting the dwarf planet gets.

 

Two of the towering mountains observed by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its historic July 14 flyby of Pluto — the 13,000-foot-high (3,960 meters) Wright Mons and the roughly 18,000-foot-high (5,500 m) Piccard Mons — appear to be ice volcanoes, mission team members said in a new video.

 

"From New Horizons' vantage point, these features look just like volcanoes do on Earth when seen from orbit," mission team member Amy Shira Teitel said in the video, which was released today (Jan. 7). 

 

Specifically, the two peaks both feature large holes in their summits, which likely formed when material erupted from underneath, causing the mountaintops to collapse. In addition, the flanks of Wright Mons and Piccard Mons sport an odd "hummocky" texture that could be the residue of past volcanic flows, New Horizons scientists said.

 

Whereas Earth volcanoes expel superhot molten rock from a subsurface magma chamber, Pluto cryovolcanoes would likely "erupt with a melted slurry containing water ice and frozen nitrogen, ammonia or methane," Teitel added.

 

New Horizons didn't catch either Wright Mons or Piccard Mons during an eruption, so the cryovolcano interpretation remains just a hypothesis at the moment. But it's one with a lot of explanatory power.

 

pluto-cryovolcanism-mountains.thumb.jpg.

Two of Pluto's mountains, named (informally) Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, may be ice volcanoes. Image released November 9, 2015.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

Quote

"Cryovolcanism could provide an important clue in understanding Pluto's geologic and atmospheric evolution," Teitel said in the video.

 

New Horizons zoomed within just 7,800 miles (12,550 km) of Pluto's surface during the July 14 flyby, returning the first-ever good looks at the dwarf planet and its five moons. The probe's observations showed that Pluto is a varied and diverse world with big ice mountains and flowing nitrogen-ice glaciers, among other intriguing features.

 

New Horizons also found that a huge swath of Pluto's famous heart-shaped region — which has informally been named Tombaugh Regio, after Clyde Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discovered the dwarf planet in 1930 — hosts no detectable craters, suggesting that the landscape is very young. How Pluto has managed to stay geologically active more than 4.5 billion years after its formation is a mystery that mission scientists are still trying to solve.

 

To date, New Horizons has beamed home just 25 percent or so of the data it gathered during the flyby; all of the images and measurements should be on the ground by this October or November, team members have said.

 

The probe is currently cruising toward a small object about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto called 2014 MU69, and will perform a flyby of the body on Jan. 1, 2019, if NASA approves and funds a proposed extended mission.

http://www.space.com/31549-pluto-ice-volcanoes-new-horizons.html

 

NASA May Have Spotted Ice Volcanoes On Pluto

video is 1:02 min.

 

 

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

High Resolution Imagery of Pluto's Sputnik Planum

 

x-marks-the-spot.trimmed.thumb.jpg.b9865

Sputnik Planum     NASA

 

Quote

"X" marks the spot of some intriguing surface activity in the latest picture of Pluto returned from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.

 

Transmitted to Earth on Dec. 24, this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) extends New Horizons' highest-resolution views of Pluto to the very center of Sputnik Planum, the informally named icy plain that forms the left side of Pluto's "heart" feature.

 

Sputnik Planum is at a lower elevation than most of the surrounding area by a couple of miles, but is not completely flat. Its surface is separated into cells or polygons 10 to 25 miles (16 to 40 kilometers) wide, and when viewed at low sun angles (with visible shadows), the cells are seen to have slightly raised centers and ridged margins, with about 100 yards (100 meters) of overall height variation.

 

Mission scientists believe the pattern of the cells stems from the slow thermal convection of the nitrogen-dominated ices that fill Sputnik Planum. A reservoir that's likely several miles or kilometers deep in some places, the solid nitrogen is warmed at depth by Pluto's modest internal heat, becomes buoyant and rises up in great blobs, and then cools off and sinks again to renew the cycle.

 

"This part of Pluto is acting like a lava lamp," said William McKinnon, deputy lead of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, from Washington University in St. Louis, "if you can imagine a lava lamp as wide as, and even deeper than, the Hudson Bay."

 

Computer models by the New Horizons team show that these blobs of overturning solid nitrogen can slowly evolve and merge over millions of years. The ridged margins, which mark where cooled nitrogen ice sinks back down, can be pinched off and abandoned. The "X" feature is likely one of thesea former quadruple junction where four convection cells meet. Numerous, active triple junctions can be seen elsewhere in the LORRI mosaic.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/high-resolution-imagery-of-plutos-sputnik-planum.html

 

The "x" is at the bottom of this mosaic

 

new.sputnik.top_.thumb.jpg.06777c4700d86

 

Quote

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues to transmit the sharpest views of Pluto that it obtained (and recorded) during its July 14, 2015 flyby.  

 

The newest image, returned on Dec. 24, extends New Horizons’ highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the center of the informally named Sputnik Planum, and nearly completes the set of highest-resolution images taken by New Horizons.

 

The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel – revealing features smaller than half a city block on Pluto’s surface. The images illustrate the polygonal or cellular pattern of the plains, which are thought to result from the convective churning of a deep layer solid, but mobile, nitrogen ice.

 

The images shown here form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and more than 400 miles (700 kilometers) long, trending from the northwestern shoreline of Sputnik Planum and out across its icy plains. They were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, from a range of approximately 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers), about 15 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto.

 

The surface of Sputnik Planum appears darker toward the shore (at top), possibly implying a change in composition or surface texture. The occasional raised, darker blocks at the cell edges are probably dirty water “icebergs” that are floating in denser solid nitrogen.

 

The images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Pluto’s cousin Triton, Neptune’s large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.

 

Credits:  NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/pluto-s-icy-plains-in-highest-resolution-views-from-new-horizons

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Haze in Bands of Blue

 

oocolor_haze_layers_no_s.thumb.jpg.95527

Pluto's limb   NASA/JPL

 

Quote

This processed image is the highest-resolution color look yet at the haze layers in Pluto's atmosphere.

 

Shown in approximate true color, the picture was constructed from a mosaic of four panchromatic images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) splashed with Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) four-color filter data, all acquired by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. The resolution is 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) per pixel; the sun illuminates the scene from the right.

 

Scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules in Pluto's atmosphere, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles, a fraction of a micrometer in size, and scatter sunlight to make the bright blue haze seen in this image.

 

As they settle down through the atmosphere, the haze particles form numerous intricate, horizontal layers, some extending for hundreds of miles around Pluto. The haze layers extend to altitudes of over 200 kilometers (120 miles).

 

Adding to the stark beauty of this image are mountains on Pluto's limb (on the right, near the 4 o'clock position), surface features just within the limb to the right, and crepuscular rays (dark finger-like shadows to the left) extending from Pluto's topographic features.

 

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

http://spaceref.com/pluto/plutos-haze-in-bands-of-blue.html

 

larger image at....

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/image.php?page=1&gallery_id=2&image_id=403

 

:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Bit slow on the news front, but here is a few things to look at....

 

PLUTO PICTURE OF THE DAY

 

image.thumb.jpg.8d46a1ab6e7ba493e8f6310b

Explanation: This illustration shows some of the final images used to determine that the coast was clear for New Horizons' flight through the Pluto system. These images show the difference between two sets of 48 combined 10-second exposures with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken June 26, 2015, from a range of 21.5 million kilometers (approximately 13 million miles) to Pluto.

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

 

http://www.boulder.swri.edu/ppod/

 

----------------------

 

Young at Heart: Pluto's Ice Only 10 Million Years Old

 

dnews-files-2016-01-pluto-heart-670x440-

This high-resolution image from New Horizons shows the “shoreline” of Sputnik Planum on Pluto.
NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

 

Quote

Pictures are still filtering back from NASA’s New Horizons close-up of Pluto last year and one of the biggest surprises so far comes from the region informally known as Sputnik Planum. There’s a lack of craters on its surface, making it a unique area on Pluto and a rare spot in the solar system — it turns out it could be very young terrain indeed.

 

“What I did was take the pictures that we have seen — the amazing pictures! — and calculate, based on Pluto’s orbital environment, what the impact rate and therefore the surface age of Sputnik Planum must be,” wrote planetary scientist David Trilling in an email to Discovery News.

 

“There have been lots of press releases describing various aspects of Sputnik Planum, but, as far as I know, this is the first time that the age estimate of 10 million years or younger appears in the peer-reviewed literature,” added Trilling, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University.

 

Trilling's study...

http://arxiv.org/pdf/1601.02833v1.pdf

 

which is in press at PLOS One, mentions three ways the resurfacing could take place:

 

Nitrogen ice on the surface could be “relaxing” if it is viscous, getting rid of any craters created by meteroids.


Ice on the bottom could be rising up and replacing ice at the top, somewhat like how a lava lamp works.


The ice could be partially melted at its bottom and from time to time, erupt on to the surface as cryo-lava.


As for where the meteorites are coming from, Trilling points out that Pluto is in a zone filled with smaller Kuiper Belt objects. From time to time, these small bodies crash into Pluto. Trilling’s math shows that this happens roughly every 10 million years, which would explain why Sputnik Planum appears so young.

 

 

Trilling’s research is mostly focused on near-Earth asteroids, but Pluto caught his attention not only because of the “astounding” images, but also the lack of craters. He’s also hopeful that New Horizons will be funded to look at another Kuiper Belt object up close in 2018. If that happens, Trilling will be on the lookout for more “crater-free patches” to nail down more information about the solar system’s evolution.

http://news.discovery.com/space/young-at-heart-plutos-ice-only-10-million-years-old-160122.htm

 

Pluto's Chaos Region Explored In New Probe Pics | Video

video is 2:19 min., few month's old, but still neat to watch...

 

 

 

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

 

:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Night Falls on Pluto's Big Moon Charon (Photo)

 

nh-charon_stack_v5_fill.png

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this image of the night side of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, on July 17, 2015.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

Quote

Pluto's largest moon, Charon, is cloaked in darkness, with just a tiny sliver lit up by the distant sun, in a newly released photo.

 

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured the image on July 17, 2015, three days after the probe's historic flyby of Pluto. That close encounter brought New Horizons within just 7,800 miles (12,550 kilometers) of Pluto's surface; the night-side view of Charon, on the other hand, was taken from a distance of 1.9 million miles (3.1 million km), NASA officials said.

 

"Charon's nighttime landscapes are still faintly visible by light softly reflected off Pluto, just as 'Earthshine' lights up a new moon each month," agency officials wrote in a description of the image, which was released Friday (Jan. 22).

 

"Scientists on the New Horizons team are using this and similar images to map portions of Charon otherwise not visible during the flyby," the officials added. "This includes Charon's south pole — toward the top of this image — which entered polar night in 1989 and will not see sunlight again until 2107. Charon's polar temperatures drop to near absolute zero during this long winter."

 

At 753 miles (1,207 km) in diameter, Charon is more than half as wide as Pluto itself. The dwarf planet's other four moons — Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx — are all tiny by comparison. For example, Nix and Hydra measure just 33 miles (54 km) and 27 miles (43 km), respectively, in their longest directions, while Styx and Kerberos are even smaller.

 

The $720 million New Horizons mission launched a decade ago, in January 2006. The probe is currently zooming toward a potential January 2019 flyby of a small object called 2014 MU69, which lies about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto.

 

New Horizons will study 2014 MU69 up close, if NASA approves and funds a proposed extended mission. The spacecraft is also still beaming home the data and images it collected during the July 2015 flyby; this relay work should be done by this coming autumn, mission team members have said.

http://www.space.com/31721-pluto-moon-charon-photo-new-horizons.html

 

and

 

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Charons_Night_Side_999.html

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Blue Bands Get High-Resolution Makeover

 

01142016_color_haze_layers_no-scale.thum

The blue bands of Pluto's atmospheric haze, captured in high resolution by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), with additional data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC).

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

Quote

Pluto's blue bands shine spectacularly in the highest-resolution image yet of the dwarf planet's atmosphere.

 

Shown in approximate true color, the band of blue haze is actually a mosaic of four panchromatic images captured by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), juxtaposed with four-color data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), as the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto on July 14. The new high-resolution image was processed by the Southwest Research Institute, an independent research and development organization based in San Antonio.

 

The probe captured the pictures as the sun illuminated the scene from the right, NASA officials said in a statement. The image's resolution is 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel.

 

The New Horizons team attributes the haze to a photochemical smog created when sunlight hits methane and other molecules in Pluto's atmosphere. A cornucopia of hydrocarbons merges together, creating small particles, less than micrometer (one-millionth of a meter) in size, that diffuse into the bright-blue haze you see in the photo.

 

Some of the band's horizontal layers actually extend for hundreds of miles around Pluto, and the whole thing rises to altitudes of more than 120 miles (200 km) above Pluto's surface, NASA officials said in the statement.

http://www.space.com/31714-pluto-blue-bands-high-resolution-makeover.html

 

:)

 

01142016_color_haze_layers_no-scale.png

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Unobscured Vision    2,678

Ahhh ... what's this? Hmmm, yesss ... Science! I thought I detected the familiar odor of hot pockets and motor oil! 

 

It's like Cartman and KFC ... if I don't have Science at least once a week I experience withdrawal symptoms. :cry:

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Surface Has a Surprising Amount of Water Ice (Photo)

 

pluto-water-ice-new-horizons.thumb.jpg.7

These maps of water ice on Pluto's surface were created using data captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby of the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. The map at left is an early effort; the one at right used modeling techniques to achieve greater sensitivity.
Credit: NASA/JHUIAPL/SwRI

 

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Water ice is surprisingly abundant on Pluto's surface, a new map of the dwarf planet reveals.

 

Scientists created the map using data collected by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its epic flyby of Pluto last July.

 

The new map is more sensitive than an earlier version also produced using flyby observations, and thus shows more water ice — the dwarf planet's bedrock material — cropping up across Pluto's surface than had been seen previously, NASA officials said.

 

"But despite its much greater sensitivity, the map still shows little or no water ice in the informally named places called Sputnik Planum (the left or western region of Pluto’s 'heart') and Lowell Regio (far north on the encounter hemisphere)," NASA officials wrote in a statement Thursday (Jan. 28). "This indicates that at least in these regions, Pluto's icy bedrock is well hidden beneath a thick blanket of other ices such as methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide."

 

New Horizons zoomed within just 7,800 miles (12,550 kilometers) of Pluto on July 14, 2015, returning history's first up-close looks at the dwarf planet and its five moons.

 

The new and old water-ice maps were both made using infrared-light observations captured by New Horizons' Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument, at a distance of about 67,000 miles (108,000 km) from Pluto, NASA officials said.

 

New Horizons is currently zooming toward a small object about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto called 2014 MU69. If NASA approves and funds a proposed extended mission, the spacecraft will study 2014 MU69 up close on Jan. 1, 2019. 

 

New Horizons is also still beaming home the many photos and measurements it captured during the July 14 flyby. All of the close-encounter data should be on the ground by this coming fall, mission team members have said.

http://www.space.com/31775-pluto-water-ice-maps-new-horizons.html

 

pluto-water-ice-new-horizons.jpg?interpo

 

:)

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Unobscured Vision    2,678

Wow .... just .... :D 

 

Looks like Mars has some competition.

 

Scratch that. If not for the extreme distance, Pluto-Charon would be way better to set up ColonyOne (and Two, and Three, and ..) at from a standpoint of raw materials. If you've got Methane and H2O you've got everything else that you could possibly need. Bring a lab, some Chemists, 3D Printers and storage tanks and the support gear to keep everyone warm, fed, and alive for a couple years and you're golden.

 

Methane, Nitrogen, lots and lots of other goodies and H2O right at the surface?? Yeah. If not for the extreme distance from the Sun (which causes the extreme cold), Pluto-Charon would be ideal.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Blue Atmosphere in the Infrared

 

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Pluto's atmosphere (infrared wavelengths).           NASA

 

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This image from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is the first look at Pluto's atmosphere in infrared wavelengths, and the first image of the atmosphere made with data from the New Horizons Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument.

 

In this image, sunlight is coming from above and behind Pluto. The image was captured on July 14, 2015, while New Horizons was about 112,000 miles (180,000 kilometers) away. The image covers LEISA's full spectral range (1.25 to 2.5 microns), which is divided into thirds, with the shortest third being put into the blue channel, middle third into the green channel, and longest into the red channel. North in this image is around the 10 o'clock position.

 

The blue ring around Pluto is caused by sunlight scattering from haze particles common in Pluto's atmosphere; scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles a fraction of a micrometer in size which scatter sunlight to make the blue haze. The new infrared image, when combined with earlier images made at shorter, visible wavelengths, gives scientists new clues into the size distribution of the particles.

 

The whitish patches around Pluto's limb in this image are sunlight bouncing off more reflective or smoother areas on Pluto's surface with the largest patch being the western section of the informally named Cthulhu Regio. Future LEISA observations returned to Earth should capture the remainder of the haze, missing from the lower section of the image.

 

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

http://spaceref.com/pluto/plutos-blue-atmosphere-in-the-infrared.html

 

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