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New Horizons Mission - Pluto + Charon Encounter

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Draggendrop    5,747

Floating Hills on Pluto's Sputnik Planum

 

oofloatinghillsunannotated.thumb.jpg.620

Sputnik Planum        NASA/JHUAPL/SWR

 

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The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear to carry an intriguing cargo: numerous, isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Pluto's surrounding uplands.

 

These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across, according to images and data from NASA's New Horizons mission.

 

The hills, which are in the vast ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum within Pluto's 'heart,' are likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planum's western border. They are yet another example of Pluto's fascinating and abundant geological activity.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/floating-hills-on-plutos-sputnik-planum.html

 

nh-floatinghillsunannotated.jpg

 

:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Wow! There's a lot for the Geologists to study. I love it. :D 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Mapping Pluto's Geology

 

oonh-geomorphological_color.jpg

Pluto    NASA

 

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How to make sense of Pluto's surprising geological complexity? To help understand the diversity of terrain and to piece together how Pluto's surface has formed and evolved over time, mission scientists construct geological maps like the one shown above.

 

This map of the left side of Pluto's heart-shaped feature uses colors to represent Pluto's varied terrains, which helps scientists understand the complex geological processes at work. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

This map covers a portion of Pluto's surface that measures 1,290 miles (2,070 kilometers) from top to bottom, and includes the vast nitrogen-ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum and surrounding terrain. As the key in the figure below indicates, the map is overlaid with colors that represent different geological terrains. Each terrain, or unit, is defined by its texture and morphology smooth, pitted, craggy, hummocky or ridged, for example. How well a unit can be defined depends on the resolution of the images that cover it. All of the terrain in this map has been imaged at a resolution of approximately 1,050 feet (320 meters) per pixel or better, meaning scientists can map units with relative confidence.

 

nh-geomorphologicalmapping.jpg

Pluto's informally-named Sputnik Planum region is mapped, with the key indicating a wide variety of units or terrains. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

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The various blue and greenish units that fill the center of the map represent different textures seen across Sputnik Planum, from the cellular terrain in the center and north, to the smooth and pitted plains in the south. The black lines represent troughs that mark the boundaries of cellular regions in the nitrogen ice. The purple unit represents the chaotic, blocky mountain ranges that line Sputnik's western border, and the pink unit represents the scattered, floating hills at its eastern edge. The possible cryovolcanic feature informally named Wright Mons is mapped in red in the southern corner of the map. The rugged highlands of the informally named Cthulhu Regio are mapped in dark brown along the western edge, pockmarked by many large impact craters, shown in yellow.

 

By studying how the boundaries between units crosscut one another, mission scientists can determine which units overlie others, and assemble a relative chronology for the different units. For example, the yellow craters (at left, on the western edge of the map) must have formed after their surrounding terrain. Producing such maps is important for gauging what processes have operated where on Pluto, and when they occurred relative to other processes at work.

 

The base map for this geologic map is a mosaic of 12 images obtained by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at a resolution of 1,280 feet (about 390 meters) per pixel. The mosaic was obtained at a range of approximately 48,000 miles (77,300 kilometers) from Pluto, about an hour and 40 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach on July 14, 2015.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/mapping-plutos-geology.html

 

:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Here are 2 images that I don't remember viewing.....

 

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Charon from LORRI

Explanation: This image is one of a series of images observed by the LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons. This image was taken of Charon roughly an hour and a half before Pluto closest approach. You can find raw LORRI images at pluto.jhuapl.edu.

Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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

 

lor_0299171296_0x636_sci_1.jpg

 

 

 

 

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Zigzagging across Pluto
Release Date: December 16, 2015
Keywords: LEISA, LORRI, Pluto, Ralph


This high-resolution swath of Pluto (right) sweeps over the cratered plains at the west of the New Horizons’ encounter hemisphere and across numerous prominent faults, skimming the eastern margin of the dark, forbidding region informally known as Cthulhu Regio, and finally passing over the mysterious, possibly cryovolcanic edifice Wright Mons, before reaching the terminator or day-night line. Among the many notable details shown are the overlapping and infilling relationships between units of the relatively smooth, bright volatile ices from Sputnik Planum (at the edge of the mosaic) and the dark edge or “shore” of Cthulhu. The pictures in this mosaic were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) in “ride-along” mode with the LEISA spectrometer, which accounts for the ‘zigzag’ or step pattern. Taken shortly before New Horizons’ July 14 closest approach to Pluto, details as small as 500 yards (500 meters) can be seen. NOTE: Click on the image and ZOOM IN for optimal viewing. 

 

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

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/image.php?page=2&gallery_id=2&image_id=391

 

p_leisa_hires.jpg

 

:woot:

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

The "long image" is crazy. A geologists' candyland. There's so much to study just in that single image. Good gracious.

 

Nice find, DD! Curse you, always finding me new pretties to look at ... :D 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Celestial Buddies' Pluto and Charon May Be the Cutest Space Toys Ever

 

pluto-charon-celestial-buddies.jpg?inter

Celestial Buddies new Pluto and Charon plush toys for 2016 make the solar system that much more cuddly.
Credit: Kasandra Brabaw

 

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NEW YORK - Build-it-yourself robots, Doctor Who kitchenware, and Star Wars everything—these are just a few of the things we've seen so far at the 2016 New York Toy Fair in Manhattan this weekend.

 

But the undeniably cutest thing we saw (and perhaps one of the cutest things I've ever seen) was the newest plush toy to join the Celestial Buddies line of stuffed planets. The newcomer isn't just one plush, but two: Pluto and Charon. The pairing honors new discoveries about both Pluto and Charon, discovered during the New Horizons flyby last year.

 

While it may not be enough for scientists to give Pluto back its title as our solar system's ninth planet, the double planet status was enough for Celestial Buddies. Pluto and Charon don't just join other planets like Mercury and Mars on the toy maker's shelves, they are also share a special bond. Each of the toys has a magnet sewn between its outer shell and stuffing so when they're near each other they stick together to mimic their natural bond.

 

Nothing in the cosmos tugs at my heart strings quite like Pluto. One moment it's a planet hanging out with eight other planets in the solar system and the next it's stripped of its planet status and demoted to dwarf planet, all because it was a little too small.

 

When New Horizons flew by Pluto, it did more than just give the dwarf planet back some of its dignity, it actually may have given it back its planet status. Thanks to data provided by the spacecraft, scientists proved what they've thought for decades: that Pluto and its largest moon Charon are actually a double planet. Because they are almost the same size and orbit a common center of mass, Charon and Pluto as a pair could be considered a planet, though not all scientists agree.

 

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, and was demoted to dwarf planet status in 2006. Charon, meanwhile, was discovered in 1978, with four more moons - Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos - to follow later.

 

The Pluto/Charon pair are available now at Celestial Buddies for $27.99.

http://www.space.com/31938-pluto-charon-plush-celestial-buddies.html

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Evidence of An Ancient Ocean on Charon?

 

ooCharon_SerenityChasma.jpg

 

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Pluto's largest moon may have gotten too big for its own skin.

 

Images from NASA's New Horizons mission suggest that Charon once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing out on the moon's surface and causing it to stretch and fracture on a massive scale.

 

The side of Charon viewed by the passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015 is characterized by a system of "pull apart" tectonic faults, which are expressed as ridges, scarps and valleysthe latter sometimes reaching more than 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) deep. Charon's tectonic landscape shows that, somehow, the moon expanded in its past, and like Bruce Banner tearing his shirt as he becomes the Incredible Hulk Charon's surface fractured as it stretched.

 

Charon's outer layer is primarily water ice. When the moon was young this layer was warmed by the decay of radioactive elements, as well as Charon's own internal heat of formation. Scientists say Charon could have been warm enough to cause the water ice to melt deep down, creating a subsurface ocean. But as Charon cooled over time, this ocean would have frozen and expanded (as happens when water freezes), pushing the surface outward and producing the massive chasms we see today.

 

This image focuses on a section of the feature informally named Serenity Chasma, part of a vast equatorial belt of chasms on Charon. In fact, this system of chasms is one of the longest seen anywhere in the solar system, running at least 1,100 miles (about 1,800 kilometers) long and reaching 4.5 miles (7.5 kilometers) deep. By comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 kilometers) long and just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep.

 

The lower portion of the image shows color-coded topography of the same scene. Measurements of the shape of this feature tell scientists that Charon's water-ice layer may have been at least partially liquid in its early history, and has since refrozen.

 

This image was obtained by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons. North is up; illumination is from the top-left of the image. The image resolution is about 1,290 feet (394 meters) per pixel. The image measures 240 miles (386 kilometers) long and 110 miles (175 kilometers) wide. It was obtained at a range of approximately 48,900 miles (78,700 kilometers) from Charon, about an hour and 40 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach to Charon on July 14, 2015.

 

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

http://spaceref.com/pluto/evidence-of-an-ancient-ocean-on-charon.html

 

:)

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

The awesome that is Pluto-Charon got bumped up even more. It's up with Ganymede and Callisto now. If not for the extremely low temperature, that system would be better than MARS. 

 

Wow. :) 

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Draggendrop    5,747

The Frozen Canyons of Pluto’s North Pole

 

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This ethereal scene captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft tells yet another story of Pluto’s diversity of geological and compositional features—this time in an enhanced color image of the north polar area.

nh-northpolerotatedcontrast.jpg?itok=we_

 

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Long canyons run vertically across the polar area—part of the informally named Lowell Regio, named for Percival Lowell, who founded Lowell Observatory and initiated the search that led to Pluto’s discovery. The widest of the canyons (yellow in the image below) – is about 45 miles (75 kilometers) wide and runs close to the north pole. Roughly parallel subsidiary canyons to the east and west (in green) are approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. The degraded walls of these canyons appear to be much older than the more sharply defined canyon systems elsewhere on Pluto, perhaps because the polar canyons are older and made of weaker material. These canyons also appear to represent evidence for an ancient period of tectonics. 

 

A shallow, winding valley (in blue) runs the entire length of the canyon floor. To the east of these canyons, another valley (pink) winds toward the bottom-right corner of the image. The nearby terrain, at bottom right, appears to have been blanketed by material that obscures small-scale topographic features, creating a ‘softened’ appearance for the landscape. 

 

Large, irregularly-shaped pits (in red), reach 45 miles (70 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, scarring the region. These pits may indicate locations where subsurface ice has melted or sublimated from below, causing the ground to collapse.

 

The color and composition of this region – shown in enhanced color – also are unusual.  High elevations show up in a distinctive yellow, not seen elsewhere on Pluto.  The yellowish terrain fades to a uniform bluish gray at lower elevations and latitudes. New Horizons' infrared measurements show methane ice is abundant across Lowell Regio, and there is relatively little nitrogen ice.  “One possibility is that the yellow terrains may correspond to older methane deposits that have been more processed by solar radiation than the bluer terrain,” said Will Grundy, New Horizons composition team lead from Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona. 

 

This image was obtained by New Horizons’ Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel.  The lower edge of the image measures about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long.  It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach on July 14, 2015.

 

nh-northpolerotatedcontrast_annotated.jp

 

images   Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/the-frozen-canyons-of-pluto-s-north-pole

 

:D

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Macsen Overdrive    32

I've been watching New Horizons for a very long time, and there hasn't been a single close-up that didn't take my breath away.

 

(I am a bit biased, since the fly-by took place on my birthday. :))

 

And we're going to keep getting images like this for a very long time.

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Jim K    13,627

Clouds on Pluto?  According to New Scientist.

 

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It can take a while to get a weather report from the outskirts of the solar system. The New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto last July, may have discovered clouds hovering above the surface, New Scientist can exclusively reveal.

 

Images released publicly (see bottom image) by the New Horizons team have already shown off Pluto’s surprisingly complex atmosphere, featuring many layers of haze rising above icy mountains. But in emails and images seen by New Scientist, researchers on the mission discuss the possibility that they have spotted individual clouds, pointing to an even richer atmospheric diversity.

 

The first sign of clouds came on 13 September last year, a few days before the public release of the haze pictures. Will Grundy of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona sent an email to a discussion list dedicated to analysing New Horizons results about Pluto’s atmosphere. “There’s a few fairly localized low-altitude features just above the limb that I’ve drawn lame arrows pointing to, but also a few bright cloud-like things that seem to be above and cutting across the topography in the circled area,” he wrote, attaching a picture (see below).

 

/snip

Source

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Draggendrop    5,747

Methane Snow on Pluto's Peaks

 

nh-cthulhusnowcapsfull.jpg

The New Horizons team has discovered a chain of exotic snowcapped mountains stretching across the dark expanse on Pluto informally named Cthulhu Regio.

 

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The New Horizons team has discovered a chain of exotic snowcapped mountains stretching across the dark expanse on Pluto informally named Cthulhu Regio.

 

One of Pluto's most identifiable features, Cthulhu (pronounced kuh-THU-lu) stretches nearly halfway around Pluto's equator, starting from the west of the great nitrogen ice plains known as Sputnik Planum. Measuring approximately 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers) long and 450 miles (750 kilometers) wide, Cthulhu is a bit larger than the state of Alaska.

 

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Cthulhu's appearance is characterized by a dark surface, which scientists think is due to being covered by a layer of dark tholins - complex molecules that form when methane is exposed to sunlight.

 

Cthulhu's geology exhibits a wide variety of landscapes-from mountainous to smooth, and to heavily cratered and fractured.

 

The reddish enhanced color image shown as the left inset reveals a mountain range located in southeast Cthulhu that's 260 miles (420 kilometers) long. The range is situated among craters, with narrow valleys separating its peaks. The upper slopes of the highest peaks are coated with a bright material that contrasts sharply with the dark red color of the surrounding plains.

 

Scientists think this bright material could be predominantly methane that has condensed as ice onto the peaks from Pluto's atmosphere.

"That this material coats only the upper slopes of the peaks suggests methane ice may act like water in Earth's atmosphere, condensing as frost at high altitude," said John Stansberry, a New Horizons science team member from Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland.

 

Compositional data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, shown in the right inset, indicates that the location of the bright ice on the mountain peaks correlates almost exactly with the distribution of methane ice, shown in false color as purple.

 

The resolution of the enhanced color image is about 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. The image measures approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) long by 140 miles (225 kilometers) wide. It was obtained by New Horizons at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Methane_Snow_on_Plutos_Peaks_999.html

 

:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

What’s Eating at Pluto?

 

nh-whatseatingpluto_context-20160310-sml

 

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Far in the western hemisphere, scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission have discovered what looks like a giant “bite mark” on Pluto’s surface. They suspect it may be caused by a process known as sublimation—the transition of a substance from a solid to a gas. The methane ice-rich surface on Pluto may be sublimating away into the atmosphere, exposing a layer of water-ice underneath.

 

nh-bite_of_pluto_annotated.jpg?itok=dJFx

 

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In this image, north is up. The southern portion of the left inset above shows the cratered plateau uplands informally named Vega Terra (note that all feature names are informal). A jagged scarp, or wall of cliffs, known as Piri Rupes borders the young, nearly crater-free plains of Piri Planitia. The cliffs break up into isolated mesas in several places.

 

Cutting diagonally across the mottled plans is the long extensional fault of Inanna Fossa, which stretches eastward 370 miles (600 kilometers) from here to the western edge of the great nitrogen ice plains of Sputnik Planum.

 

Compositional data from the New Horizons spacecraft’s Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument, shown in the right inset, indicate that the plateau uplands south of Piri Rupes are rich in methane ice (shown in false color as purple).  Scientists speculate that sublimation of methane may be causing the plateau material to erode along the face of the cliffs, causing them to retreat south and leave the plains of Piri Planitia in their wake.

 

Compositional data also show that the surface of Piri Planitia is more enriched in water ice (shown in false color as blue) than the higher plateaus, which may indicate that Piri Planitia’s surface is made of water ice bedrock, just beneath a layer of retreating methane ice.  Because the surface of Pluto is so cold, the water ice is rock-like and immobile. The light/dark mottled pattern of Piri Planitia in the left inset is reflected in the composition map, with the lighter areas corresponding to areas richer in methane – these may be remnants of methane that have not yet sublimated away entirely.

 

The inset at left shows about 650 feet (200 meters) per pixel; the image measures approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) long by 255 miles (410 kilometers) wide. It was obtained by New Horizons at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

 

The LEISA data at right was gathered when the spacecraft was about 29,000 miles (47,000 kilometers) from Pluto; best resolution is 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) per pixel.

 

Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/what-s-eating-at-pluto

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Snakeskin Terrain

 

oonh1-3-11-16.jpg

Pluto's North Pole             NASA

 

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This image is what geologists call 'bladed' terrain in a region known as Tartarus Dorsa, located in the rough highlands on the eastern side of Tombaugh Regio.

 

(Note that all names used here are informal.) A moment's study reveals surface features that appear to be texturally 'snakeskin'-like, owing to their north-south oriented scaly raised relief. A digital elevation model created by the New Horizons' geology shows that these bladed structures have typical relief of about 550 yards (500 meters). Their relative spacing of about 3-5 kilometers makes them some of the steepest features seen on Pluto.

 

Now, here comes the puzzle. Spectroscopic measurements of this region made by New Horizons' Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument show that this region of Pluto's surface has a predominance of methane (CH4)with a smattering of water as well. Naturally, one then would ask, "Can pure methane ice support such steep structures under Pluto's gravity and surface temperature conditions over geologic time?"

The answer is a meek "maybe." To date, there are only two known published studies examining the rheological properties (i.e., how much a material deforms when stresses are applied to it) of methane ice in the extreme temperature range of Plutoa bitterly cold -300 to -400 degrees Fahrenheit. According to one study, the answer is a definite 'no,' because methane ice of those dimensions would flatten out in a matter of decades. Yet in another study, methane ice may maintain such a steepened structure if the individual CH4 ice grains constituting the collective ice are large enough. Which study is right? Or is there a way to reconcile them? This is something we simply do not know at the moment.

 

So before we try to explain how the bladed shapes came to be, we have to make sure we have developed a detailed and controlled laboratory understanding of the behavior of both pure methane ice and methane-hydrate ice. If there were ever an example of why we need further laboratory work, this is it!

 

But what if it turns out that pure methane ice is always too 'mushy' to support such observed structures? Because water is also observed in this region, perhaps the material making up the bladed terrain is a methane clathrate. A clathrate is a structure in which a primary molecular species (say water, or H2O) forms a crystalline 'cage' to contain a guest molecule (methane or CH4, for example.). Methane clathrates exist on the Earth, namely at the bottoms of the deep oceans where it is sufficiently cold to maintain clathrate ice. Under those terrestrial conditions, however, methane clathrates are relatively unstable to increases in temperature, causing their cages to open and release their guest methane molecules. This poses a real problem for terrestrial climate stability, since methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

 

However, under the cold conditions typical of the surface of Pluto, methane clathrates are very stable and extremely strong, so they might easily mechanically support the observed bladed structures. While there is no direct and unambiguous evidence of methane clathrates on the surface of Pluto, it's certainly a plausible candidate, and we are actively considering that possibility too.

 

If the Tartarus Dorsa bladed region is comprised of methane clathrates, then the next question would be, "how were the clathrates placed there and where did they come from?" Recent detailed studies (see Mousis et al., 2015) strongly suggest that methane clathrates in the icy moons of the outer solar system and also in the Kuiper Belt were formed way back before the solar system formed i.e., within the protosolar nebula potentially making them probably some of the oldest materials in our solar system.

 

Might the material comprising the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa be a record of a time before the solar system ever was? That would be something!

 

Today's blog post is from Orkan Umurhan, a mathematical physicist currently working as a senior post-doc at NASA Ames Research Center. He has been on the New Horizons Science Team for over two years. He specializes in astrophysical and geophysical fluid dynamics, and now works on a variety of geophysical problems, including landform evolution modeling as applied to the icy bodies of the solar system. He is a co-author of a graduate-level textbook on fluid dynamics coming out late this spring.

 

Orkan Umurhan Credits: NASA/ARC/Carrie Chavez

http://spaceref.com/pluto/plutos-snakeskin-terrain.html

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Draggendrop    5,747

Haze Layers Above Pluto

 

nh-1-pluto-haze.jpg?itok=3ITqzn8y

 

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This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right.

 

This week, in the journal Science, New Horizons scientists have authored the first comprehensive set of papers describing results from last summer’s Pluto system flyby. Above the surface, scientists discovered Pluto’s atmosphere contains layered hazes, and is both cooler and more compact than expected. This affects how Pluto’s upper atmosphere is lost to space, and how it interacts with the stream of charged particles from the sun known as the solar wind.

 

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/haze-layers-above-pluto

 

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

 

Five papers provide new data from flyby of Pluto

 

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Pluto's surface exhibits a wide variety of landscapes, results from five new studies in this special issue on the New Horizons mission report. The dwarf planet has more differences than similarities with its large moon, Charon. What's more, the studies in this package reveal, Pluto modifies its space environment - interacting with the solar wind plasma and energetic particles around it. The results pave the way for many further, in-depth studies of Pluto.

 

NASA's New Horizons mission continues to download information gathered from Pluto and its moon Charon during its historic flyby on 14 July, 2015. As this data arrives on Earth, scientists process and study it. In the first of five papers in this package, Jeffrey Moore et al. offer some of the first descriptions of the wide array of geological features on Pluto and Charon. They report evidence of tectonics, glacial flow, transport of large water-ice blocks, and broad mounds on Pluto - possibly a result of cryovolcanoes. Data on the variability of terrain suggests the dwarf planet has been frequently resurfaced by processes like erosion, pointing to active geomorphic processes within the last few hundred million years. Such processes have not been active so recently on Charon; divided into a rugged north and a smooth south, the moon is marked with older craters and troughs, contrasting with Pluto.

 

In a second study, Will Grundy et al. analyze the colors and chemical compositions of the icy surfaces of Pluto and Charon. The volatile ices, including water ice and solid nitrogen, that dominate Pluto's surface are distributed in a complicated way, they report, a result of geomorphic processes acting on the surface over different seasonal and geological timescales. Broad expanses of reddish-brown molecules called tholins accumulated in some parts of Pluto, the study suggests. In a third study, G. Gladstone et al. investigate the atmosphere of Pluto, which is colder and more compact than expected and hosts numerous extensive layers of haze. In a fourth study, Harold Weaver et al. examine the small moons Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra, which are irregularly shaped, fast rotating and have bright surfaces. Finally, Fran Bagenal et al. report how Pluto modifies its space environment, including interactions with the solar wind and a lack of dust in the system. Taken together, these results from the flyby of Pluto pave the way for scientists' better understanding of processes of planetary evolution.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/aaft-fpp031416.php

 

I will see if I can dig up some goodies from these papers....:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Beautiful, Bewitching Pluto Poses in New Images from New Horizons Probe

 

new-horizons-pluto-sputnik-planum-wester

This snapshot captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft shows the western region of the heart-shaped area informally known as Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC).
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

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And the hits just keep on coming. Another batch of Pluto photos from NASA's New Horizons probe reveals the majesty and mystery of this icy world.  

The images are the latest releases from the treasure trove of data and snapshots captured by during New Horizon's close flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. One of the new images gives a close-up view of the unofficially titled Sputnik Planum, a heart-shaped region on Pluto's surface that is suspiciously crater-free.

 

This week, five new research papers appeared in the journal Science, discussing new discoveries about Pluto that have been revealed thanks to the data collected by New Horizons. Check below to see three more jaw-dropping snapshots of Pluto.

 

new-horizons-pluto-haze.jpg?1458322257?i

 

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One haunting snapshot, taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), captures layers of atmospheric haze above Pluto's surface. The different layers of haze (about 20 can be seen in this image) have been found to extend across the surface for hundreds of kilometers. But according to NASA, they are not strictly parallel to the dwarf planet's surface. "For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower-left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right," according to a statement from the space agency.

 

 

new-horizons-pluto-mountains-plains.jpg?

 

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The top portion of this image shows that a smooth section of the informally named Sputnik Planum is 228 miles (367 km) wide. Beneath it is a close-up of the also informally named Vulcan Planum on the surface of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, that is 194 miles (312 km) wide.

 

Sputnik Planum is free of craters, which suggests that it experienced recent geologic activity. Vulcan Planum is dotted with not only craters, but also deep troughs. Also visible is the mountain Clarke Mons, which appears to be surrounded by a deep "moat." The highly textured surface indicates that the surface of Charon is ancient, according to NASA. The new Science papers report that water-ice-rich Vulcan Planum "is likely a vast cryovolcanic flow or flows that erupted onto Charon's surface about 4 billion years ago. These flows are likely related to the freezing of an internal ocean that globally ruptured Charon's crust," the statement said.

 

new-horizons-surface-diversity.jpg?14583

 

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It's Pluto in a whole new light. This enhanced color view of Pluto's surface was created using two of New Horizons' instruments: the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) color imagery, and the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager panchromatic imagery.

 

The region shown in the image is just underneath the western lobe of Sputnik Planum (the tip of the craterless plane dips down at the top middle of the image). Ices that fill Sputnik Planum have altered the surrounding terrain, "creating a chaoslike array of blocky mountains," NASA officials said.

http://www.space.com/32312-beautiful-pluto-photos-science-results.html

 

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Destination Pluto: NASA's New Horizons Mission in Pictures

 

pluto-new-horizons-mountains-plains.jpg?

A zoomed-in view of a photo NASA’s New Horizons probe took on July 14, 2015, when it was just 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) from Pluto. The near-sunset scene, which is 230 miles (380 km) across, shows rugged ice mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high and wide, flat plains.

 

 

new-horizons-pluto-haze.jpg?interpolatio

The setting sun illuminates fog or near-surface haze on Pluto in this small section of an image taken by NASA’s New Horizons probe on July 14, 2015, when it was 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet. The image covers a stretch of land 115 miles (185 km) wide.

 

 

new-horizons-pluto-sunset.jpg?interpolat

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, capturing this near-sunset view of the dwarf planet’s icy mountains and flat ice plains. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) from Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 km) wide.

 

more images, older ones, at the link...

http://www.space.com/16533-pluto-new-horizons-spacecraft-pictures.html

 

:D

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Obi-Wan Kenobi    1,119
On 2/4/2016 at 7:37 PM, Draggendrop said:

Floating Hills on Pluto's Sputnik Planum

 

<snipped, obviously>

Stunning! (Y) I can't comment on every post, but this thread is awesome! Love it!

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Ahhh ....  

 

Very enjoyable. And one of the heads of the Mission, Dr. Brian May, also known to the world as the Lead Guitarist of Queen. Certainly an Opus Maximus from him. :yes: The real-life Buckaroo Banzai!

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

You know, every time I enjoy imagery from Pluto-Charon, I have this desire to queue up select tracks on Pandora.

 

Call of Cthulhu - Metallica

Trapped Under Ice - Metallica

Flash Gordon - Queen

 

:D 

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

I have some information on the 5 papers, abstracts and full text at each of the links.

 

The small satellites of Pluto as observed by New Horizons

 

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Abstract

The New Horizons mission has provided resolved measurements of Pluto’s moons Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. All four are small, with equivalent spherical diameters of ~40 kilometers for Nix and Hydra and ~10 kilometers for Styx and Kerberos. They are also highly elongated, with maximum to minimum axis ratios of ~2. All four moons have high albedos (~50 to 90%) suggestive of a water-ice surface composition. Crater densities on Nix and Hydra imply surface ages of at least 4 billion years. The small moons rotate much faster than synchronous, with rotational poles clustered nearly orthogonal to the common pole directions of Pluto and Charon. These results reinforce the hypothesis that the small moons formed in the aftermath of a collision that produced the Pluto-Charon binary.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6279/aae0030

 

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Surface compositions across Pluto and Charon

 

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Abstract

The New Horizons spacecraft mapped colors and infrared spectra across the encounter hemispheres of Pluto and Charon. The volatile methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen ices that dominate Pluto’s surface have complicated spatial distributions resulting from sublimation, condensation, and glacial flow acting over seasonal and geological time scales. Pluto’s water ice “bedrock” was also mapped, with isolated outcrops occurring in a variety of settings. Pluto’s surface exhibits complex regional color diversity associated with its distinct provinces. Charon’s color pattern is simpler, dominated by neutral low latitudes and a reddish northern polar region. Charon’s near-infrared spectra reveal highly localized areas with strong ammonia absorption tied to small craters with relatively fresh-appearing impact ejecta.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6279/aad9189

 

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The geology of Pluto and Charon through the eyes of New Horizons

 

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Abstract

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has revealed the complex geology of Pluto and Charon. Pluto’s encounter hemisphere shows ongoing surface geological activity centered on a vast basin containing a thick layer of volatile ices that appears to be involved in convection and advection, with a crater retention age no greater than ~10 million years. Surrounding terrains show active glacial flow, apparent transport and rotation of large buoyant water-ice crustal blocks, and pitting, the latter likely caused by sublimation erosion and/or collapse. More enigmatic features include tall mounds with central depressions that are conceivably cryovolcanic and ridges with complex bladed textures. Pluto also has ancient cratered terrains up to ~4 billion years old that are extensionally faulted and extensively mantled and perhaps eroded by glacial or other processes. Charon does not appear to be currently active, but experienced major extensional tectonism and resurfacing (probably cryovolcanic) nearly 4 billion years ago. Impact crater populations on Pluto and Charon are not consistent with the steepest impactor size-frequency distributions proposed for the Kuiper belt.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6279/1284

 

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Pluto’s interaction with its space environment: Solar wind, energetic particles, and dust

 

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Abstract

The New Horizons spacecraft carried three instruments that measured the space environment near Pluto as it flew by on 14 July 2015. The Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument revealed an interaction region confined sunward of Pluto to within about 6 Pluto radii. The region’s surprisingly small size is consistent with a reduced atmospheric escape rate, as well as a particularly high solar wind flux. Observations from the Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI) instrument suggest that ions are accelerated and/or deflected around Pluto. In the wake of the interaction region, PEPSSI observed suprathermal particle fluxes equal to about 1/10 of the flux in the interplanetary medium and increasing with distance downstream. The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter, which measures grains with radii larger than 1.4 micrometers, detected one candidate impact in ±5 days around New Horizons’ closest approach, indicating an upper limit of <4.6 kilometers–3 for the dust density in the Pluto system.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6279/aad9045

 

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The atmosphere of Pluto as observed by New Horizons

 

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Abstract

Observations made during the New Horizons flyby provide a detailed snapshot of the current state of Pluto’s atmosphere. Whereas the lower atmosphere (at altitudes of less than 200 kilometers) is consistent with ground-based stellar occultations, the upper atmosphere is much colder and more compact than indicated by pre-encounter models. Molecular nitrogen (N2) dominates the atmosphere (at altitudes of less than 1800 kilometers or so), whereas methane (CH4), acetylene (C2H2), ethylene (C2H4), and ethane (C2H6) are abundant minor species and likely feed the production of an extensive haze that encompasses Pluto. The cold upper atmosphere shuts off the anticipated enhanced-Jeans, hydrodynamic-like escape of Pluto’s atmosphere to space. It is unclear whether the current state of Pluto’s atmosphere is representative of its average state—over seasonal or geologic time scales.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6279/aad8866

 

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Photos of Pluto and Its Moons

 

This is for a review of some of the images we have seen. There are 116 slides here.

 

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

 

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Pluto's Wonders Come into Focus

 

A small SA summary on a few points that we have covered here.

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pluto-s-wonders-come-into-focus/

 

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Pluto's 'Unprecedented' Ice Provinces and Other Surprises from NASA's New Horizons

 

Another general article with infographics

 

http://www.space.com/32301-pluto-surprising-discoveries-new-horizons.html

 

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Also, I don't remember this 2 images, taken on 12-04-2015, so I will place them here.

 

CratersandPlains.jpg

Layered craters and ice plains

 

PlutosBadlands.jpg

Pluto's Badlands

 

From...

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/view.php?gallery_id=2&page=2&bytopic=&bydate=

 

Enjoy   :D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Well, this is huge news .... 

 

http://gizmodo.com/pluto-may-have-had-rivers-of-liquid-nitrogen-1766214976

 

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New research presented today at the 2016 Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference reveals tropic and arctic regions on Pluto, and a dynamic climate cycle that’s causing its atmosphere to fluctuate in size over time—possibly allowing for lakes and rivers of liquid nitrogen to form at the surface.

 

Rivers of Liquid Nitrogen May Have Once Flowed on Pluto

Rivers of Liquid Nitrogen May Have Once Flowed on Pluto

 

Data from New Horizons suggests that atmospheric pressure has changed dramatically over the course of Pluto’s history. At some points, it was as low as 10 microbars (which is about 1/100,000th the pressure found on Earth at sea level), but at other times as high as 200 millibars. Pluto has even exceeded Mars’s atmospheric pressure in the past, which Stern said, “really changes your view of how this little planet operates.” For comparison, the average air pressure at the surface of Mars is 6 millibars, compared to 1,013 millibars on Earth.

really recommend reading the entire article -- lots and lots of information about this discovery (and what it means), including Pluto having "climate zones"! Even that far out, where there's almost no solar energy getting to Pluto-Charon, for these kinds of processes to be going on is astounding. 

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Draggendrop    5,747

I just went to the conference link and there are presentation pdf's for viewing and downloading as well. They are covering data from the 5 submitted papers as well. Each day is also forecast for presenters....this would be neat to attend...:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

And there's a Mars Presentation too, about the Atmosphere there. Should be quite a Convention. :yes: 

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Draggendrop    5,747

More surprises in store for the New Horizons spacecraft?

 

new_horizons_pluto_feature.png?itok=b6yv

file image    NASA

 

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Students at CU-Boulder, who built a dust counter for the New Horizons mission to Pluto, have been eyeing the data for decade now. And the results are showing the solar system really is pretty barren if you put aside the planets, rings, moons, comets and asteroids.

 

The Student Dust Counter (SDC) found only a handful of dust grains, the building blocks of planets, when the spacecraft whipped by Pluto at 31,000 miles per hour last July. Data show the space environment around Pluto and its moons contains only about six dust particles per cubic mile, says Professor Fran Bagenal, who leads the New Horizons Particles and Plasma Team.

 

“The bottom line is that space is mostly empty,” explains  Bagenal, a faculty member at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). “Any debris created when Pluto’s moons were captured or created during impacts has long since been removed by planetary processes.”

 

Since its launch in 2006, SDC has identified a few thousand microscopic dust particles, the building blocks of both our solar system and the universe and which can give researchers clues about how the solar system was formed billions of years ago and how it works today.

 

“CU-Boulder is the only place in the world where students could have built an instrument that eventually flew off to another planet,” says Bagenal.

A lot of dust is on the horizon for New Horizons, which is now on the edge of the Kuiper Belt, a vast region thought to span more than a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit. the Kuiper Belt is believed to harbor at least 70,000 objects more than 60 miles in diameter and contain samples of ancient material created during the solar system’s violent formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

 

“Now we are now starting to see seeing a slow but steady increase in the impact rate of larger particles, possibly indicating that we already have entered the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt,” says physics Professor Mihaly Horanyi, the principal investigator for the SDC.

 

A new study involving Bagenal, Horanyi, CU-Boulder doctoral student Marcus Piquette and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) postdoctoral researcher Jamey Szalay, who received his doctorate in physics from CU-Boulder last year, was just published in Science.

 

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“Our instrument has been soaring through our solar system’s dust disk and gathering data since launch,” said Szalay, who works at SwRI headquarters in San Antonio. “It’s going to be very exciting to get into the Kuiper Belt and see what we find there.”

 

New Horizons is traveling at a mind-blowing 750,000 miles a day. Images from closest approach were taken from roughly 7,700 miles above Pluto’s surface. The spacecraft, about the size of a baby grand piano, carries six other instruments.

 

The next and final target of New Horizons is a 30-mile-in diameter Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft is expected to pass in January 2019.

http://www.colorado.edu/news/features/more-surprises-store-new-horizons-spacecraft

 

Hopefully the particles won't get to a size that cause damage. I have a feeling that it will get a bit dirty in the "belt". 

:)

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Yeah, the further away from Neptune's orbit that NH gets, the larger those particles are likely to be. I agree with the assessments, and the worries. Gonna get dirty the further out it goes. I'm surprised neither Voyagers have sustained impacts, because they're both well into the Kuiper Belt if not into the most theoretically dense part of it, where most of the "trash" material should be.

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