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New Horizons Mission - Pluto + Charon Encounter

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Draggendrop    5,747

Possible Frozen Lake of Nitrogen Found on Pluto

 

ooPond.jpg

Possible Frozen Nitrogen Lake on Pluto                      NASA

 

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This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum.

Captured by the New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, the image shows details as small as about 430 feet (130 meters). At its widest point the possible lake appears to be about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when thanks to much higher pressure in Pluto's atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/possible-frozen-lake-of-nitrogen-found-on-pluto.html

 

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Pluto’s Atmosphere Confounds Researchers

 

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Every since its discovery in June 1988, Pluto's tenuous atmosphere has been a source of frequent discussion and debate among outer-planet specialists. Pluto is so cold, about 45 Kelvin (–380° Fahrenheit) that the frozen nitrogen and methane on its surface vaporize at very slow rates.

 

Moreover, given Pluto's strongly eccentric orbit and that it swung closest to the Sun (perihelion) in 1989, many researchers believed that what little gas surrounded this little world would all soon freeze and precipitate onto the surface. In fact, the prospect of a soon-to-be-airless Pluto became a compelling reason for NASA to fund and launch New Horizons.

 

Before the spacecraft got there last July, the scientific consensus held that Pluto must be losing nitrogen gas to space at a rapid rate, roughly 1027 molecules per second. That corresponds to a few thousand tons per day, enough for researchers to question where it's all coming from and whether this dwarf planet has been losing gas throughout solar-system history.

 

The New Horizons team had a carefully designed plan for assessing the state of Pluto's atmosphere. First, its PEPSSI instrument (a clever acronym that's short for Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) would detect huge bubble of ionized gas created by ultraviolet sunlight and stripped from Pluto's upper atmosphere by the solar wind. Meanwhile, New Horizons briefly ducked out of view behind Pluto as seen from both the Sun and Earth, and these occultations allowed scientists to probe the atmosphere from top to bottom.

 

So imagine the team's surprise — shock, really — to learn that Pluto's upper atmosphere is far colder than expected (roughly 70K instead of the anticipated 100K). Consequently, the thin air doesn't puff up high enough to be stripped away by the solar wind. In fact, PEPSSI didn't detect any interaction with the solar wind until the spacecraft got to within about 7,000 km of Pluto. Instead, the escape rate of nitrogen must only 1023 molecules per second — a mere 10,000th (0.01%) of the pre-arrival prediction.

 

"There's essentially no nitrogen escaping from the upper atmosphere of Pluto," admits Michael Summers (George Mason University). "It's all methane."

As Summers and other the New Horizons investigators detailed this week at the annual Lunar & Planetary Science Conference — and in five articles published in March 18th's Science — the reasons for the unexpectedly cold upper atmosphere aren't clear. Perhaps some other compound is radiating away heat to space. Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and acetylene (C2H2) are plausible candidates, but observations with the ALMA radio-telescope array in Chile suggest that there's not nearly enough HCN present to do the job.

Haze-layers-in-Pluto-atmosphere.jpg

Taken shortly after New Horizons came closest to Pluto on July 14, 2015, this image reveals about 20 distinct haze layers in the tenuous atmosphere surrounding Pluto.
NASA / JHU-APL / SWRI

 

more at the link..real good article with several topics...

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/plutos-atmosphere-confounds-researchers-032520166/

 

:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

SO much going on at Pluto-Charon. You'd think that at such low temperatures that there'd be nothing -- far from it. That place is every bit as interesting as everywhere else in the Solar System, and has its' own reasons for being fascinating. Pluto-Charon and Ceres are rewriting the books on everything we thought we knew about KBO's and Dwarf Planets, and are helping us understand the large moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune too.

 

Can't wait to see what the data has in store for us next. :yes: 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Bladed Terrain in 3-D

 

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One of the strangest landforms spotted by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft when it flew past Pluto last July was the "bladed" terrain just east of Tombaugh Regio, the informal name given to Pluto's large heart-shaped surface feature.

 

No geology degree is necessary to see why the terrain is so interesting – just a pair of 3-D glasses will do. The blades are the dominant feature of a broad area informally named Tartarus Dorsa. They align from north to south, reach hundreds of feet high and are typically spaced a few miles apart. This remarkable landform, unlike any other seen in our solar system, is perched on a much broader set of rounded ridges that are separated by flat valley floors.

 

On the global image, the bladed terrain extends far to the east. New Horizons scientists have speculated about (but not yet agreed on) the terrain's origins. Current theories include erosion from evaporating ices or deposition of methane ices; New Horizons researcher Orkan Umurhan takes an in-depth look at the terrain – and proposes another origin idea – in this recent NASA Web blog. (link to https://blogs.nasa.gov/pluto/2016/03/11/plutos-snakeskin-terrain-cradle-of-the-solar-system/)

 

The amazing stereo view combines two images from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) taken about 14 minutes apart on July 14, 2015. The first was taken when New Horizons was 16,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, the second when the spacecraft was 10,000 miles (about 17,000 kilometers) away. Best resolution is approximately 1,000 feet (310 meters).

 

Pluto_bladed_stereo.jpg

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

 

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160331

 

:)

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Jim K    13,660
On 4/2/2016 at 0:20 AM, Draggendrop said:

Pluto's Bladed Terrain in 3-D

 

 

Pluto_bladed_stereo.jpg

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

 

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160331

 

:)

Dangit...knew I shouldn't have gotten rid of those 3D glasses I used to watch Star Wars. :( 

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Jim K    13,660

Pluto may have tipped over when Charon tuggest at its heart

 

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Sometimes you’ve just got to follow your heart, even if it means moving heaven and Pluto. The dwarf planet’s iconic heart, informally known as Tombaugh Regio, was one of the biggest surprises in the first images beamed back by NASA’s New Horizons probe last July. Now a more detailed look at the spacecraft’s data suggests the heart is so heavy it may actually have tipped Pluto on to its side.

 

The west side of the heart, Sputnik Planum, is thought to be the remnants of a large crater that has been filled in with nitrogen ice. The plain is unmarked by craters, suggesting it must be less than 10 million years old. Researchers have noticed that the centre of this crater lies very close to the tidal axis – an imaginary line linking Pluto to its largest moon, Charon. The two worlds are tidally locked, meaning they always show the same face to each other as they rotate.

 

It would be a bit of a coincidence for these two features to line up so well, but at the Lunar and Planetary Science conference last month in The Woodlands, Texas, two teams offered a potential explanation. If Sputnik Planum is denser than Pluto is on average, Charon’s tug on it will be proportionally greater, swivelling the entire world. “Charon is going to try to pull it into the tidal axis – that just happens to be where you would minimise the energy,” says James Keane of the University of Tuscon, Arizona, who led one of the teams.

More @ NewScientist.com

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Horizons Fills Gap in Space Environment Observations

 

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The New Horizons spacecraft sent back over three years worth of measurements of the solar wind the constant flow of solar particles that the sun flings out into space from a region that has been visited by only a few spacecraft.

 

This unprecedented set of observations give us a peek into an almost entirely unexplored part of our space environment - filling a crucial gap between what other missions see closer to the sun and what the Voyager spacecraft see further out. A new study to appear in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement lays out New Horizons observations of the solar wind ions that it encountered on its journey.

 

Not only does the New Horizons data provide new glimpses of the space environment of the outer solar system, but this information helps round out our growing picture of the suns influence on space, from near-Earth effects to the boundary where the solar wind meets interstellar space. The new data shows particles in the solar wind that have picked up an initial burst of energy, an acceleration boost that kicks them up just past their original speed. These particles may be the seeds of extremely energetic particles called anomalous cosmic rays. When these super-fast, energetic rays travel closer to Earth, they can pose a radiation hazard to astronauts. Further away, at lower energies, the rays are thought to play a role at shaping the boundary where the solar wind hits interstellar space - the region of our solar system that Voyager 2 is currently navigating and observing.

large article, more at the link...

http://spaceref.com/space-weather-2/new-horizons-fills-gap-in-space-environment-observations.html

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/nsfc-nnh040516.php

 

Simulating Space Weather at Pluto

video is 0:56 min.

 

 

 

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Multitasking New Horizons observed solar wind changes on journey to Pluto

 

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San Antonio -- April 5, 2016 -- In addition to its history-making encounter with Pluto last July, the New Horizons spacecraft also recorded significant changes in how the solar wind behaves far from the Sun.

 

The Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument, operated by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), collected three years' worth of measurements before the July 15 Pluto flyby. Data showed that the tumultuous flow of solar particles, which in the inner solar system is structured by the interaction of fast and slow flows as well as eruptive events on the Sun, becomes more uniform by the time the solar wind has traversed the 3 billion miles to Pluto's orbit.

 

SWAP measures the solar wind and ions created as the neutral interstellar material becomes ionized and is "picked up" by the solar wind. These interstellar pickup ions can have up to twice the speed and four times the energy of the solar wind. Farther out in space, these ions may be the seeds of the extremely fast energetic particles called anomalous cosmic rays, which pose a radiation threat to astronauts closer to Earth. These ions also play an important role in shaping the boundary where the solar wind hits interstellar space. New Horizons is currently at about 35 astronomical units (about 35 times farther than the Earth to the Sun). It is the only operating spacecraft in the outer solar system. Only Voyager 2 has measured the solar wind farther away from the Sun; however, SWAP on New Horizons will be the first to measure the interstellar pickup ions in the outer solar system.

 

The results will appear in a study to be published April 6 by the Astrophysical Journal Supplement.

more at the link...

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-04/sri-mnh040516.php

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Icy 'Spider' on Pluto

 

nh-spider_insetannotated-revised2.jpg

Pluto's unusual spider-like feature consists of at least six extensional fractures that converge to a point. Individual fractures can reach hundreds of miles long and appear to expose a reddish subsurface layer. Image courtesy NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

 

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Sprawling across Pluto's icy landscape is an unusual geological feature that resembles a giant spider. "Oh, what a tangled web Pluto's geology weaves," said Oliver White, a member of the New Horizons geology team from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

 

"The pattern these fractures form is like nothing else we've seen in the outer solar system, and shows once again that anywhere we look on Pluto, we see something different."

 

As shown in the enhanced color image above - obtained by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015 - this feature consists of at least six extensional fractures (indicated by white arrows) converging to a point near the center.

 

The longest fractures are aligned roughly north-south, and the longest of all, the informally named Sleipnir Fossa, is more than 360 miles (580 kilometers) long. The fracture aligned east-west is shorter and is less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) long.

 

To the north and west, the fractures extend across the mottled, rolling plains of the high northern latitudes, and to the south, they intercept and cut through the bladed terrain informally named Tartarus Dorsa.

 

Curiously, the spider's "legs" noticeably expose red deposits below Pluto's surface.

 

New Horizons scientists think fractures seen elsewhere on Pluto - which tend to run parallel to one another in long belts - are caused by global-scale extension of Pluto's water-ice crust.

 

The curious radiating pattern of the fractures forming the "spider" may instead be caused by a focused source of stress in the crust under the point where the fractures converge - for example, due to material welling up from under the surface.

 

The spider somewhat resembles radially fractured centers on Venus called novae, seen by NASA's Magellan spacecraft, as well as the Pantheon Fossae formation, seen by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft on Mercury.

 

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. 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.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Icy_Spider_on_Pluto_999.html

 

http://spaceref.com/pluto/icy-spider-on-pluto.html

 

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Multitasking New Horizons observed solar wind changes on journey to Pluto

 

Quote

In addition to its history-making encounter with Pluto last July, the New Horizons spacecraft also recorded significant changes in how the solar wind behaves far from the Sun.

 

The Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument, operated by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), collected three years' worth of measurements before the July 15 Pluto flyby. Data showed that the tumultuous flow of solar particles, which in the inner solar system is structured by the interaction of fast and slow flows as well as eruptive events on the Sun, becomes more uniform by the time the solar wind has traversed the 3 billion miles to Pluto's orbit.

 

SWAP measures the solar wind and ions created as the neutral interstellar material becomes ionized and is "picked up" by the solar wind. These interstellar pickup ions can have up to twice the speed and four times the energy of the solar wind. Farther out in space, these ions may be the seeds of the extremely fast energetic particles called anomalous cosmic rays, which pose a radiation threat to astronauts closer to Earth.

 

These ions also play an important role in shaping the boundary where the solar wind hits interstellar space. New Horizons is currently at about 35 astronomical units (about 35 times farther than the Earth to the Sun). It is the only operating spacecraft in the outer solar system. Only Voyager 2 has measured the solar wind farther away from the Sun; however, SWAP on New Horizons will be the first to measure the interstellar pickup ions in the outer solar system.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Multitasking_New_Horizons_observed_solar_wind_changes_on_journey_to_Pluto_999.html

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Video: How is Pluto Classified as a Rocky World?

 

pluto-classified-rocky-world-040816-945.

How is Pluto Classified as a Rocky World?.          NASA

 

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When it comes to Pluto, classification is tricky, but it's unquestioningly a rocky body. This is Pluto in a Minute.

 

The bodies in our solar system fall more or less into set categories like gas giants, terrestrial planets, icy comets, and small bodies like asteroids. So where does Pluto fit? Thanks to data and images gathered by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, mission scientists can confirm that Pluto is, in fact, a rocky world.

 

Orbiting anywhere from 30 to 50 times further from the sun than the Earth, Pluto's composition is far more reminiscent of a terrestrial planet than a gas giant, and far more rocky than scientists expected. Pluto's surface looks to be dominated by nitrogen ice with some methane and carbon mixed in.

 

As for its overall makeup, Pluto is likely about 70 percent rock and 30 percent water ice, which behaves a lot like rock in Pluto's frigid region of the solar system. Internally, scientists suspect Pluto has a rocky core surrounded by a mantle of water ice with the more exotic ices appearing only on the surface.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/video-how-is-pluto-classified-as-a-rocky-world.html

 

How is Pluto Classified as a Rocky World?

video is 1:12 min.

 

 

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

This is an overview of the "extended mission" request as well as future plans....

 

 The PI's Perspective: To Boldly Go On, In the Service of Exploration

 

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New Horizons is healthy and has just last month completed the halfway point in its long download of 50-plus gigabits of Pluto system data that we collected last summer. We expect the download to continue through October or November of this year, with more data coming to the ground virtually every week until then. And in July we’ll conduct a final Pluto flyby calibration of all seven scientific instruments aboard New Horizons.

 

This week, though, we completed and turned in our proposal to NASA to continue the exploration by New Horizons. The proposed effort covers another almost two billion miles of space, lasting until 2021, and includes another close flyby, in 2019.

 

NASA will carefully evaluate this proposal for funding and let us know the outcome by June or July. I’m so excited about what we proposed that I thought I’d write about that “extended mission” in this installment of the New Horizons PI Perspective, so you can learn our plans too.

 

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Extending the Voyage


We call this mission to explore the Kuiper Belt (KB) “KEM” — for KB Extended Mission.

 

The centerpiece of the KEM is the close flyby of an ancient Kuiper Belt object (KBO) called 2014 MU69 on Jan 1, 2019 — yep, on New Year’s Day! The planned flyby will approach MU69 to about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers), which is about four times closer than we flew past Pluto. Consequently, imaging and compositional mapping spectroscopy resolutions are all expected to be even better than what we achieved at the Pluto system!

 

We discovered 2014 MU69 (or MU69, for short) in a dedicated search for possible extended mission flyby targets that we conducted in 2014, using the Hubble Space Telescope. MU69 is about 21 to 40 kilometers across, which makes it about 1,000 times more massive than comet 67P that Rosetta is orbiting but about 500,000 times less massive than Pluto. This places it in a key intermediate size regime to better understand planetary accretion. And given its 4-plus-billion-year existence in cold storage so far from the sun, MU69 will be the most pristine object ever visited by any space mission.

 

With NASA’s concurrence, we fired the engines on New Horizons late last year to target this flyby before it cost too much fuel — which would have happened had we waited.

 

Trajectory-to-KB.jpg

In late 2015, with NASA’s concurrence, New Horizons was targeted to make a flyby of an ancient Kuiper Belt object a billion miles beyond Pluto, with closest approach planned for Jan. 1, 2019.

 

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New Horizons will use all seven of its scientific instruments to explore MU69. The encounter will include detailed global and high-resolution mapping, including color mapping. It will also include compositional mapping, searches for moons of MU69, studies of its surface properties, and searches for an atmosphere. If KEM is approved, flyby operations would begin about 100 days out, in late September 2018 (just 2½ years from now!) and continue through the first week of 2019, after closest approach. MU69 data downlink will take 20 months, until late 2020.

 

If I do say so myself, the flyby of MU69 would be a landmark event, shattering all distance records for deep space exploration, and yielding an impressive scientific bounty.

 

However, the New Horizons extended mission we proposed to NASA is much more than just a close flyby of MU69. It also aggressively exploits New Horizons as an observation platform in the Kuiper Belt, capable of studying many other KBOs and the space environment in which they orbit. KEM’s other scientific objectives are to:

 

Make distant flyby observations of about 20 other KBOs during 2016-2020, determining their shapes, satellite populations and surface properties—something no other mission or ground-based telescope can.


Make sensitive searches for rings around a wide variety of KBOs during 2016-2020.


Conduct a heliospheric transect of the Kuiper Belt—making nearly continuous plasma, dust and neutral gas observations from 2016 to 2021, when the spacecraft reaches 50 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.


Potentially conduct astrophysical cruise science in 2020 and 2021, after the MU69 flyby, if NASA desires.

 

KBO-Observations.jpg

A summary of distant KBO and Centaur observations in KEM. In the timeline (upper left), blue vertical bars indicate targeted periods when observations are possible. Object diameters, in kilometers, assume an albedo of 0.1 for smaller objects where the true albedo is not known. Object classes are as follows: CC=cold classical; HC=hot classical; CN=Centaur; PT=Plutino; SC=Scattered; DP=dwarf planet. Diamonds show geometry and expected observation signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs). Satellite search limits assume satellite albedos of 0.10 and 3σ detection thresholds.

 

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The Kuiper Belt is a rich scientific frontier. Its exploration has important implications for better understanding comets, the origin of small planets, the solar system as a whole, the solar nebula, and dusty Kuiper Belt-like disks around other stars, as well as for studying primitive material from our own solar system’s planet formation era. The exploration of the Kuiper Belt and KBOs like MU69 by New Horizons would transform Kuiper Belt and KBO science from a purely astronomical pursuit, as it is today, to a geological and geophysical pursuit.

 

Strong science community support for the exploration of the Kuiper Belt by New Horizons has been expressed by both NASA’s own Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) and Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG). In April 2014, these two advisory committees stated that “SBAG and OPAG are united in affirmation of the tremendous scientific value of exploring a primitive KBO in situ, where it remains essentially unaltered since the time of planetesimal formation,” and that “The scientific bounty of a spacecraft encounter with a primitive KBO is realizable in our lifetimes, but only with New Horizons … No other mission currently in flight, in build, or in design will reach the Kuiper Belt.”

 

With New Horizons so healthy, so capable of carrying out KEM, and so successful at Pluto, we are optimistic about our proposal, which NASA will soon have peer reviewed. If KEM is approved, we will begin both KEM science observations and MU69 flyby planning this fall. If the proposal fails, we will have to turn the spacecraft off in December for a lack of funds to continue.

 

In the meantime, while we await word, we continue to download and analyze data from the Pluto system, creating new science every day as we make discoveries. The flyby of Pluto may be nine months in our past, but the data it has provided is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

 

That’s it for now, and I’ll write again soon. Until then, I hope you’ll keep exploring — just as we do!

-Alan Stern

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/PI-Perspectives.php?page=piPerspective_04_14_2016

 

//

Pluto-enhanced-color-041416.jpg

A wide swath of the close approach hemisphere of Pluto, in enhanced color, as seen by New Horizons, in July 2015. Data like these are contributing to discoveries every week.

 

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/PI-Perspectives.php?page=piPerspective_04_14_2016

 

If they get the funding, and the probe holds up...we could see a lot more cool stuff.....pun intended.....:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

OMG .... DATA SHEETS ... it's ... /happydance ... technical data ... parameters for KBO's ... and the super high-res shot of Pluto!!! WOW!

 

@Draggendrop, you've outdone yourself this time, buddy. :D Only us Space Fans, on a FRIDAY NIGHT, when the weather is this pleasant, would pass up going out on the town to pour over this absolutely sensational data you've provided. :yes: 

 

And ya know what? I regret nothing. :D I'd rather do this than go get hammered or some such nonsense.

 

Thank you so much!

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto’s ‘Halo’ Craters

 

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Within Pluto’s informally named Vega Terra region is a field of eye-catching craters that looks like a cluster of bright halos scattered across a dark landscape.

 

The region is far west of the hemisphere NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft viewed during close approach last summer. The upper image – in black and white – sports several dozen “haloed” craters. The largest crater, at bottom-right, measures about 30 miles (50 kilometers) across. The craters’ bright walls and rims stand out from their dark floors and surrounding terrain, creating the “halo” effect.

 

In the lower image, composition data from New Horizons’ Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) indicate a connection between the bright halos and distribution of methane ice, shown in false color as purple. The floors and terrain between craters show signs of water ice, colored in blue. Exactly why the bright methane ice settles on these crater rims and walls is a mystery; also puzzling is why this same effect doesn’t occur broadly across Pluto.

 

The upper view is a mosaic made from two separate images obtained by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). A high-resolution strip taken at approximately 760 feet (232 meters) per pixel is overlain on a broader, low-resolution image taken at 2,910 feet (889 meters) per pixel.  The images were obtained at ranges of 28,800 miles (46,400 kilometers) and 106,700 miles (171,700 kilometers) from Pluto, respectively, on July 14, 2015. The LEISA data came the same day, during the instrument’s highest-resolution scan of Pluto, with New Horizons 28,000 miles (45,500 kilometers) from Pluto, with a resolution of 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) per pixel.

 

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

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160421

 

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Plutos_Halo_Craters_999.html

 

nh-halo_context-scale_20160421.jpg

Image courtesy NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

I thought this was neat.....

 

Pluto's Glowing Halo | Space Wallpaper

 

pluto-halo-1600.jpg?interpolation=lanczo

 

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The vapor surrounding Pluto gleams brightly in an image snapped by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). Experts believe the halo is a high-altitude haze created by chemical reactions — instigated by the Sun — between nitrogen and methane. These reactions lead to tiny particles called tholins in the atmosphere. The New Horizons' team used software combining data from three images (blue, red and near-infrared) to reproduce what the view in space would look like. [See more images of Pluto and Its Moons.]

 

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

 

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Wallpaper download options

Standard

800x600
1024x768
1280x1024
1600x1200
Wide

1280x800
1440x900
1680x1050
1920x1200

Wallpapers at this link...

http://www.space.com/32731-plutos-glowing-halo.html

 

 

nothing new for news, hopefully we will have something shortly...

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

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Draggendrop    5,747

World Map of Pluto Includes Every Image of Beloved Dwarf Planet

 

pluto-complete-map-april29.jpg?interpola

A black-and-white global map of Pluto produced from images taken by NASA's New Horizons space probe.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

 

3535 x 1400 image link

 

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A black-and-white map of Pluto's surface — that includes all available and resolved images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecarft — is the most comprehensive view yet of the icy world.  

 

Prior to 2015, the dwarf planet Pluto looked like little more than a fuzzy speck of light hovering at the edge of the solar system. That all changed when NASA's New Horizons space probe made its close flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Since then, the agency has released a flood of beautiful, detailed and scientifically surprising photos of the icy world.

 

The new map brings together all the images that NASA has been slowly releasing, into a single global overview of the solar system's largest known dwarf planet.

 

The New Horizons probe did not orbit Pluto, but instead made a quick flyby of the dwarf planet before heading further out into the Kuiper Belt, the band of icy, rocky bodies that loop around the sun beyond the orbit of Neptune. The probe is expected to make a flyby of another body in that region in 2019.

 

Because New Horizons did not orbit Pluto, the resolution of the map is much higher on one side of the dwarf planet — the side facing away from its largest moon, Charon. The map has "pixel resolutions ranging from 18 miles (30 kilometers) on the Charon-facing hemisphere (left and right edges of the map) to 770 feet (235 meters) on the hemisphere facing New Horizons during the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, 2015 (map center)," according to a statement from NASA.

 

The map includes images sent back to Earth "as recently as April 25," according to the agency.  Because New Horizons acquired a massive amount of data during its Pluto encounter, and because it has a relatively slow download speed, it will take the spacecraft more than a year to send all of its Pluto data back to Earth.

 

"The team will continue to add photos [to the map] as the spacecraft transmits the rest of its stored Pluto encounter data," NASA said. "All encounter imagery is expected on Earth by early fall. The team is also working on improved color maps."

http://www.space.com/32756-pluto-global-map-most-comprehensive-yet.html

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Interaction with the Solar Wind is Unique

 

ooglobalmosaicpluto.jpg

Pluto     NASA

 

Quote

Pluto behaves less like a comet than expected and somewhat more like a planet like Mars or Venus in the way it interacts with the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles from the sun.

 

This is according to the first analysis of Pluto's interaction with the solar wind, funded by NASA's New Horizons mission and published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

 

Using data from the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument from the New Horizons July 2015 flyby, scientists have for the first time observed the material coming off of Pluto's atmosphere and studied how it interacts with the solar wind, leading to yet another "Pluto surprise."

 

"This is a type of interaction we've never seen before anywhere in our solar system," said David J. McComas, lead author of the study. McComas, professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University and vice president for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. "The results are astonishing." McComas leads the SWAP instrument aboard New Horizons; he also led the development of SWAP when he was at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Space physicists say that they now have a treasure trove of information about how Pluto's atmosphere interacts with the solar wind. Solar wind is the plasma that spews from the sun into the solar system at a supersonic 100 million miles per hour (160 million kilometers per hour), bathing planets, asteroids, comets and interplanetary space in a soup of mostly protons and electrons.

 

Previously, most researchers thought that Pluto was characterized more like a comet, which has a large region of gentle slowing of the solar wind, as opposed to the abrupt diversion solar wind encounters at a planet like Mars or Venus. Instead, like a car that's part gas- and part battery-powered, Pluto is a hybrid, researchers say.

 

So Pluto continues to confound. "These results speak to the power of exploration. Once again we've gone to a new kind of place and found ourselves discovering entirely new kinds of expressions in nature," said SwRI's Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator.

 

Since it's so far from the sun an average of about 3.7 billion miles, the farthest planet in the solar system and because it's the smallest, scientists thought Pluto's gravity would not be strong enough to hold heavy ions in its extended atmosphere. But, "Pluto's gravity clearly is enough to keep material relatively confined," McComas said.

 

The researchers were able to separate the heavy ions of methane, the main gas escaping from Pluto's atmosphere, from the light ions of hydrogen that come from the sun using the SWAP instrument.

 

Quote

Among additional Pluto findings:

 

- Like Earth, Pluto has a long ion tail, that extends downwind at least a distance of about 100 Pluto radii (73,800 miles/118,700 kilometers, almost three times the circumference of Earth), loaded with heavy ions from the atmosphere and with "considerable structure."

 

- Pluto's obstruction of the solar wind upwind of the planet is smaller than had been thought. The solar wind isn't blocked until about the distance of a couple planetary radii (1,844 miles/3,000 kilometers, about the distance between Chicago and Los Angeles.)

 

- Pluto has a very thin boundary of Pluto's tail of heavy ions and the sheath of the shocked solar wind that presents an obstacle to its flow.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/plutos-interaction-with-the-solar-wind-is-unique.html

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

I think that can be attributed more to the presence of Pluto's atmosphere and the curious mix of Nitrogen and Methane (and how those Ions interact with the Hydrogen Ions in the Solar Wind) rather than some direct effect like Mercury, Mars, etc. would have upon the Solar Wind.

 

Don't get me wrong; it's a completely new and fascinating observation, and speaks volumes. There's likely some pretty interesting stuff that results from it. But it's ...

 

.... aaaaand I'm doing the Captain Obvious thing again. *sigh* When will I stop that!? Oy.

 

Cool finding. Love to see more. Good on them. Yeah. That's what I need to say. Yep. :yes:

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Draggendrop    5,747

cookie for you.jpg

cookies?.....:woot:

 

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

 

New Elevation Map of Pluto's Sunken 'Heart'

 

nh-shaded_relief_map-pluto_4-28-16-2.jpg

Image courtesy NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

 

Quote

This newest shaded relief view of the region surrounding the left side of Pluto's heart-shaped feature - informally named Sputnik Planum - shows that the vast expanse of the icy surface is on average 2 miles (3 kilometers) lower than the surrounding terrain.

 

Angular blocks of water ice along the western edge of Sputnik Planum can be seen "floating" in the bright deposits of softer, denser solid nitrogen.

Topographic maps of Pluto are produced from digital analysis of stereo images acquired during the July 14, 2015 flyby.

 

Such maps are derived from digital stereo-image mapping tools that measure the parallax - or the difference in the apparent relative positions - of individual features on the surface obtained at different times.

 

Parallax displacements of high and low features are then used to directly estimate feature heights.

 

These topographic maps are works in progress and artifacts are still present in the current version. The map is artificially illuminated from the south, rather than the generally northern solar lighting of landscape during the time of the flyby.

 

One of the many advantages of digital terrain maps is that they can be illuminated from any direction to best bring out different features.

 

North is up and the total relief in the scene is approximately 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the lowest to the highest features.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Elevation_Map_of_Plutos_Sunken_Heart_999.html

 

:D

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Moon Hydra Sheathed in Ultraclean Water Ice

 

hydra_solo.jpg?interpolation=lanczos-non

Hydra, Pluto's outermost moon, is about 31 miles (50 kilometers) in diameter.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

Quote

Pluto's outermost moon, Hydra, was named for a legendary Greek water monster, and it's living up to its name: New data show that the little moon is almost entirely covered in "nearly pristine" water ice, NASA officials say. 

 

The new data from the New Horizons spacecraft, collected during its July 2015 flyby of Pluto, suggest that the planet's icy shell is cleaner than the ice found on Pluto's other moons. 

 

The incredible purity of the ice on Hydra helps to explain the high reflectivity that scientists noticed from earlier New Horizons data, NASA officials said. Those earlier observations of Hydra found that its surface is extremely reflective — even more so than the surface of Pluto's largest moon,

Charon. Although Charon is also covered in water ice, it's contaminated with darker material that has accumulated over time on the surface, making Charon less reflective, according to NASA. (The researchers call the substance "water ice" to distinguish it from more exotic ices, such as the crystallized nitrogen that flows on Pluto's surface.)

 

The ice on Hydra's surface seems to either have larger grains or reflect more light at certain angles than the ice grains on Charon, based on the wavelengths of light it absorbs, NASA officials said in a statement. 

 

Pure-Ice_Hydra_Charon_Spectra-composite.

Measurements from NASA's New Horizons probe suggest that Pluto's farthest moon, Hydra, is covered in highly pure water ice.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

Quote

Scientists theorize that Hydra formed from icy debris produced when two celestial bodies collided to form the Pluto-Charon system about 4 million years ago and their water-heavy outer layers were stripped away. 


Next, NASA researchers will investigate why Hydra's ice is cleaner than Charon's. One theory they've proposed is that small meteorite collisions may continually hit Hydra and blast away the contaminants that taint Charon's ice. 

 

"This process would have been ineffective on the much larger Charon, whose much stronger gravity retains any debris created by these impacts," Simon Porter, a New Horizons science team member from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in the statement. 

 

With more data rolling in from New Horizons, scientists will soon have the chance to compare Charon to Hydra directly, and also compare those two moons to Pluto's other small moons. 

http://www.space.com/32848-pluto-moon-hydra-water-ice.html

 

Icy Hydra

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160506

 

:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Woohoo! Way Station! :D "Eat at Joe's" and "Last Chance for Gas" signs. Hehe!

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Horizons Obtains New Images and Science Data of Post-Pluto Kuiper Belt Object

 

nh-kbo-deep_press_anno.gif

Image from New Horizons showing the small KBO called 1994 JR1, taken in April 2016. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

Quote

The New Horizons mission to Pluto has been nothing less than incredible, giving us our first close-up views of this enigmatic dwarf planet and its moons. But the show isn’t over yet, as the New Horizons team is now planning for its next encounter with another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) in 2019. But even before then, the spacecraft has been busy observing other smaller objects, and has now collected the first science data on one of them, called 1994 JR1.


New Horizons has now observed this tiny world, only 90 miles (145 kilometers) wide, twice so far. Like Pluto, it inhabits the Kuiper Belt in the far outer reaches of the Solar System, more than 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) from the Sun. It is only one of thousands of such objects, but by studying it, scientists can learn more about KBOs in general, including larger ones such as Pluto.

 

When images were taken by New Horizons on April 7-8, 1994 JR1 was about 69 million miles (111 million kilometers) away from the spacecraft. That is a long way away, of course, but still much, much closer than it is to Earth. Previously, New Horizons had seen this object from a distance of 170 million miles (280 million kilometers).

 

Quote

Just being able to obtain these images and other data is exciting for scientists, because it wouldn’t be possible from Earth. Only a spacecraft in that distant region of space could accomplish this. Even Pluto, much larger than most other KBOs such as this one, only appeared as a tiny dot of light in the best telescopes, with just vague hints of surface features discernible. But New Horizons has revolutionized our view of the Pluto system, and now is ready to do the same with other KBOs. Scientists expect to get closer looks at possibly 20 more such KBOs over the next few years, as long as the extended mission for New Horizons gets approved and budgeted. On Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft is scheduled to make a close flyby of another KBO, known as 2014 MU69.

 

nh-kbo_light_curve_graphic-600x450.png

Chart of light curve data used by the New Horizons science team to determine the rotation period of tiny KBO 1994 JR1. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

Quote

The new mission extension proposal, called Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM), has been formally submitted to NASA for approval, as reported previously on AmericaSpace. The main objectives include:

 

Make distant flyby observations of about 20 other KBOs during 2016-2020, determining their shapes, satellite populations, and surface properties – something no other mission or ground-based telescope can.


Make sensitive searches for rings around a wide variety of KBOs during 2016-2020.


Conduct a heliospheric transect of the Kuiper Belt, making nearly continuous plasma, dust, and neutral gas observations from 2016 to 2021, when the spacecraft reaches 50 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.


Potentially conduct astrophysical cruise science in 2020 and 2021, after the MU69 flyby, if NASA desires.

more at the link...

http://www.americaspace.com/?p=93516#more-93516

 

New Horizons' First Science on a Post-Pluto Object

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_First_Science_on_a_Post_Pluto_Object_999.html

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

First Stellar Occultations Shed Additional Light on Pluto's Atmosphere

 

two-bright-ultraviolet-stars-pass-behind

This illustration shows how New Horizons' Alice ultraviolet spectrometer instrument "watched" as two bright ultraviolet stars passed behind Pluto and its atmosphere. The light from each star dimmed as it moved through deeper layers of the atmosphere, absorbed by various gases and hazes. Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute. 

 

Quote

Scientists on NASA's New Horizons team say the spacecraft succeeded in observing the first occultations of Pluto's atmosphere by ultraviolet stars, an important goal of the mission's Pluto encounter. These data, stored on New Horizons' digital recorders since last summer's encounter and recently transmitted to Earth, confirm several major findings about Pluto's atmosphere.

 

Approximately four hours after New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto on July 14 - when the spacecraft was about 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometers) beyond Pluto - the Alice ultraviolet spectrometer instrument on board the spacecraft "watched" as two bright ultraviolet stars passed behind Pluto and its atmosphere.

 

The light from each star dimmed as it moved through deeper layers of Pluto's atmosphere, absorbed by various gases and hazes.

 

Much like the solar occultation that Alice had observed a few hours before - when it used sunlight to make similar measurements - these stellar occultations provided information about the composition and structure of Pluto's atmosphere.

 

Both stellar occultations revealed ultraviolet spectral fingerprints of nitrogen, hydrocarbons like methane and acetylene, and even haze, just as the solar occultation had done earlier.

 

The results from the solar and stellar occultations are also consistent in terms of vertical pressure and temperature structure of Pluto's upper atmosphere.

 

This means that the upper atmosphere vertical profiles of nitrogen, methane, and the observed hydrocarbons are similar over many locations on Pluto.

 

These results confirm findings from the Alice solar occultation that the upper atmospheric temperature is as much as 25 percent colder and thus more compact than what scientists predicted before New Horizons' encounter.

 

This also confirms, albeit indirectly, the result from analysis and modeling of the Alice solar observation that the escape rate of nitrogen is about 1,000 times lower than expected before the flyby.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/First_Stellar_Occultations_Shed_Additional_Light_on_Plutos_Atmosphere_999.html

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Close-Up View of Pluto's Surface

 

Quote

This is the most detailed view of Pluto's terrain you'll see for a very long time. 


This mosaic strip extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015 now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. (Be sure to zoom in for maximum detail.) With a resolution of about 260 feet (80 meters) per pixel, the mosaic affords New Horizons scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain on Pluto, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them.

 

"This new image product is just magnetic," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. "It makes me want to go back on another mission to Pluto and get high-resolution images like these across the entire surface."

 

The view extends from the "limb" of Pluto at the top of the strip, almost to the "terminator" (or day/night line) in the southeast of the encounter hemisphere, seen below. The width of the strip ranges from more than 55 miles (90 kilometers) at its northern end to about 45 miles (75 kilometers) at its southern point. The perspective changes greatly along the strip: at its northern end, the view looks out horizontally across the surface, while at its southern end, the view looks straight down onto the surface.

 

This movie moves down the mosaic from top to bottom, offering new views of many of Pluto's distinct landscapes along the way. Starting with hummocky, cratered uplands at top, the view crosses over parallel ridges of "washboard" terrain, chaotic and angular mountain ranges, cellular plains, coarsely "pitted" areas of sublimating nitrogen ice, zones of thin nitrogen ice draped over the topography below, and dark mountainous highlands scarred by deep pits.

 

The pictures in the mosaic were obtained by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) approximately 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach.

 

Larger image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://spaceref.com/new-close-up-view-of-plutos-surface.html

 

New Horizons' Extreme Close-Up of Pluto’s Surface (no audio)

video is 1:35 min.  

 

 

:D

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Jim K    13,660

Not really new news...but thought you all might get a kick out of this.

 

In case she removes it. :)

 

 

 

 

Capture.JPG

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Draggendrop    5,747

This one is for Greta......

CWy6ZMIUAAM4Dbr.jpg

 

Now, back to goodies.......

 

Secrets Revealed from Pluto's 'Twilight Zone'

 

ooDarkSideImage.jpg

Pluto's Polygons        NASA/SWRI

 

Quote

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image was obtained at a high phase angle -that is, with the sun on the other side of Pluto, as viewed by New Horizons. Seen here, sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto's complex atmospheric haze layers. The southern portions of the nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum, as well as mountains of the informally named Norgay Montes, can also be seen across Pluto's crescent at the top of the image.

 

Looking back at Pluto with images like this gives New Horizons scientists information about Pluto's hazes and surface properties that they can't get from images taken on approach. The image was obtained by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) approximately 13,400 miles (21,550 kilometers) from Pluto, about 19 minutes after New Horizons' closest approach. The image has a resolution of 1,400 feet (430 meters) per pixel. Pluto's diameter is 1,475 miles (2,374 kilometers).

 

DarkSideImage_Unann.jpg

NASA/SWRI

 

Quote

The inset at top right shows a detail of Pluto's crescent, including an intriguing bright wisp (near the center) measuring tens of miles across that may be a discreet, low-lying cloud in Pluto's atmosphere; if so, it would be the only one yet identified in New Horizons imagery. This cloud - if that's what it is - is visible for the same reason the haze layers are so bright: illumination from the sunlight grazing Pluto's surface at a low angle. Atmospheric models suggest that methane clouds can occasionally form in Pluto's atmosphere. The scene in this inset is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across.

 

The inset at bottom right shows more detail on the night side of Pluto. This terrain can be seen because it is illuminated from behind by hazes that silhouette the limb. The topography here appears quite rugged, and broad valleys and sharp peaks with relief totaling 3 miles (5 kilometers) are apparent. This image, made from closer range, is much better than the lower-resolution images of this same terrain taken several days before closest approach. These silhouetted terrains therefore act as a useful "anchor point," giving New Horizons scientists a rare, detailed glimpse at the lay of the land in this mysterious part of Pluto seen at high resolution only in twilight. The scene in this inset is 460 miles (750 kilometers) wide.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/image.php?image_id=446

 

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

 

Pluto's Heart: Like a Cosmic 'Lava Lamp'

 

McKinnonetalNaturecovertrimmed.jpg

Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission used state-of-the-art computer simulations to show that the surface of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum is covered with churning ice "cells" that are geologically young and turning over due to a process called convection. The scene above, which is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) across, uses data from the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), gathered July 14, 2015. (Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

 

Quote

Like a cosmic lava lamp, a large section of Pluto's icy surface is being constantly renewed by a process called convection that replaces older surface ices with fresher material. Combining computer models with topographic and compositional data gathered by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft last summer, New Horizons team members have determined the depth of this layer of solid nitrogen ice within Pluto's distinctive "heart" feature – a large plain informally known as Sputnik Planum – and how fast that ice is flowing. The study is published in the June 2 issue of the journal Nature.

 

Mission scientists used state-of-the-art computer simulations to show that the surface of Sputnik Planum is covered with icy, churning, convective "cells" 10 to 30 miles (16 to 48 kilometers) across, and less than one million years old. The findings offer additional insight into the unusual and highly active geology on Pluto and, perhaps, other bodies like it on the outskirts of the solar system.

 

"For the first time, we can really determine what these strange welts of the icy surface of Pluto really are," said William B. McKinnon, from Washington University in St. Louis, and the co-investigator on the New Horizons science team who led the study. "We found evidence that even on a distant cold planet billions of miles from Earth, there is sufficient energy for vigorous geological activity, as long as you have 'the right stuff,' meaning something as soft and pliable as solid nitrogen." McKinnon and colleagues believe the pattern of these cells stems from the slow thermal convection of the nitrogen-dominated ices that fill Sputnik Planum. A reservoir that's likely several miles deep in some places, the solid nitrogen is warmed by Pluto's modest internal heat, becomes buoyant and rises up in great blobs – like a lava lamp – before cooling off and sinking again to renew the cycle. The computer models show that ice need only be a few miles deep for this process to occur, and that the convection cells are very broad. The models also show that these blobs of overturning solid nitrogen can slowly evolve and merge over millions of years. Ridges that mark where cooled nitrogen ice sinks back down can be pinched off and abandoned, resulting in Y- or X-shaped features in junctions where three or four convection cells once met.

 

"Sputnik Planum is one of the most amazing geological discoveries in 50-plus years of planetary exploration, and the finding by McKinnon and others on our science team that this vast area—bigger than Texas and Oklahoma combined – is created by current day ice convection is among the most spectacular of the New Horizons mission," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

 

These convective surface motions average only a few centimeters a year – about as fast as your fingernails grow – which means cells recycle their surfaces every 500,000 years or so. While slow on human clocks, it's a fast clip on geological timescales.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160601

 

:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

"Woodstock Planum" .... cooooool, maaaaan!

 

 

Sorry, I had to. :D 

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calimike    34

New Horizon reach Pluto on August 1, 2012!? :/:s

 

 

Edited by calimike

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