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New Horizons Mission - Pluto + Charon Encounter

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Draggendrop    5,747

I did get a chuckle from the video. This is what happens when people have an agenda and refuse critical thinking. Sadly, these groups will always exist on the fringe, and as long as they stay there, not many care. These groups generally will be left to their own, till critical mass is generated, then their concepts will be torn apart by actual facts for their misinterpretations.

 

I thought the ISS conspiracy was great, the one where all activities are filmed on land, but this one is even better. I can't wait for the JUNO conspiracy, which they are probably working on now...if not, I would be disappointed in these groups.

 

azjBgoq_460s.jpg

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

The Jagged Shores of Pluto's Highlands

 

KrunMacula_Context-20160609-sml.jpg

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

 

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This enhanced color view from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto's great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. 

 

Krun Macula – Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a macula is a dark feature on a planetary surface – is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across Pluto. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain – informally named Sputnik Planum – and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep. 

 

At the boundary with Sputnik Planum, these pits form deep valleys reaching more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) long, 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) wide and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep (almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona), and have floors covered with nitrogen ice. New Horizons scientists think these pits may have formed through surface collapse, although what may have prompted such a collapse is a mystery. 

 

This scene was created using three separate observations made by New Horizons in July 2015. The right half of the image is composed of 260 feet- (80 meter-) per-pixel data from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), obtained at 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach. The left half is composed of 410 feet- (125 meter-) per-pixel LORRI data, obtained about six minutes earlier, with New Horizons 15,470 miles (24,900 kilometers) from Pluto.

 

These data respectively represent portions of the highest- and second-highest-resolution observations obtained by New Horizons in the Pluto system. The entire scene was then colorized using 2230 feet- (680 meter-) per-pixel data from New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC), obtained at 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before closest approach. 

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/image.php?image_id=448

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Draggendrop    5,747

For the above post, another similar article here, but it has a zoom for the jpg.

 

Enhanced color image shows Pluto’s rugged highlands; new textbook will discuss mission findings

http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/solar-system/enhanced-color-image-shows-pluto-rugged-highlands-textbook-will-discuss-mission-findings/

 

Krun-Macula_context-20160609_rsz-1600px-

This enhanced-color view from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto’s great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JHU-APL/SwRI
 

 

Krun-Macula_unannotated-2_rsz-1600px-516

This dramatic image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows the dark, rugged highlands known as Krun Macula (lower right), which border a section of Pluto’s icy plains. (Click to enlarge and zoom in.) Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JHU-APL/SwRI

 

zoom for image above link, if problem, go to article link

 

:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Really the only thing that could cause that is evaporation, condensation and partial sublimation processes over time. And because it's such a strange mix (refreezing, thawing and refreezing Nitrogen and Methane with interspersed H2O) and quite unusual circumstances that drive these processes, we don't fully understand how these processes function. More data and observation is needed .. and that means an Orbiter and Lander that can observe up close for a long period of time. :yes: 

 

(And yes, I'm trying to justify a Mission .. not that it'd need any help. Pluto-Charon is already a super-fascinating place!)

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Draggendrop    5,747

A ‘Super Grand Canyon’ on Pluto’s Moon Charon

 

argocontext201606016.jpg?itok=zlCaolth

Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

 

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Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is home to an unusual canyon system that’s far longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

 

The inset above magnifies a portion of the eastern limb in the global view of Charon at left, imaged by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft several hours before its closest approach on July 14, 2015.  A deep canyon informally named Argo Chasma is seen grazing the limb. The section of it seen here measures approximately 185 miles (300 kilometers) long. As far as New Horizons scientists can tell, Argo’s total length is approximately 430 miles (700 kilometers) long – for comparison, Arizona’s Grand Canyon is 280 miles (450 kilometers) long. 

 

At this fortuitous viewing angle the canyon is seen edge-on, and at the northern end of the canyon its depth can be easily gauged.  Based on this and other images taken around the same time, New Horizons scientists estimate Argo Chasma to be as deep as 5.5 miles (9 kilometers), which is more than five times the depth of the Grand Canyon. There appear to be locations along the canyon’s length where sheer cliffs reaching several miles high occur, and which could potentially rival Verona Rupes on Uranus’ moon Miranda (which is at least 3 miles, or 5 kilometers, high) for the title of tallest known cliff face in the solar system.

 

The image was obtained by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at a resolution of approximately 1.45 miles (2.33 kilometers) per pixel.  It was taken at a range of approximately 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers) from Charon, 9 hours and 22 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Charon on July 14, 2015.

Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/a-super-grand-canyon-on-pluto-s-moon-charon

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Jim K    13,631
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Following its historic first-ever flyby of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons mission has received the green light to fly onward to an object deeper in the Kuiper Belt, known as 2014 MU69. The spacecraft’s planned rendezvous with the ancient object – considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system -- is Jan. 1, 2019.

 

“The New Horizons mission to Pluto exceeded our expectations and even today the data from the spacecraft continue to surprise,” said NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Jim Green. “We’re excited to continue onward into the dark depths of the outer solar system to a science target that wasn’t even discovered when the spacecraft launched.”

 

Based upon the 2016 Planetary Mission Senior Review Panel report, NASA this week directed nine extended missions to plan for continued operations through fiscal years 2017 and 2018.  Final decisions on mission extensions are contingent on the outcome of the annual budget process.

 

In addition to the extension of the New Horizons mission, NASA determined that the Dawn spacecraft should remain at the dwarf planet Ceres, rather than changing course to the main belt asteroid Adeona.

 

Green noted that NASA relies on the scientific assessment by the Senior Review Panel in making its decision on which extended mission option to approve. “The long-term monitoring of Ceres, particularly as it gets closer to perihelion – the part of its orbit with the shortest distance to the sun -- has the potential to provide more significant science discoveries than a flyby of Adeona,” he said.

 

Also receiving NASA approval for mission extensions, contingent on available resources, are: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), the Opportunity and Curiosity Mars rovers, the Mars Odyssey orbiter, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and NASA’s support for the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission.

NASA

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nh-scatteringmapcontext_06_29_16-v3-small4review.jpg

 

The vast nitrogen ice plains of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planum – the western half of Pluto’s “heart” – are giving up more secrets.

 

Scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission have processed images of Sputnik Planum to bring out intricate, never-before-seen patterns in the surface textures of these glacial plains. The left inset on the image (above) shows an enhanced-color close-up of a region of cellular plains in the middle of Sputnik. The right-hand inset is a “scattering map” of the same region. The scattering map is created by combining two images of Sputnik Planum that were taken at two very different viewing geometries (angles) as the New Horizons spacecraft flew past. Bright regions on the scattering image preferentially reflect sunlight forward, away from the direction of the sun, probably because they have a relatively smooth texture. Conversely, darker regions in the scattering map tend to reflect sunlight back toward the sun, probably because they have a rougher texture. This new and valuable view of the plains reveals distinct, intricate patterns within the cells that were not evident before.

 

The scattering map reveals that, with some exceptions, the centers of cells tend to be smoother, while their edges tend to be rougher and more pitted. The boundaries between ice cells in many cases tend to be even brighter and hence smoother than the cell centers. This pattern is very likely a consequence of the convective flow that New Horizons scientists think is taking place within the nitrogen ice of Sputnik Planum, where warmer ice rises at the centers of cells, travels outward, and descends at the edges, like a cosmic lava lamp. Exactly how this process contributes to the surface texture patterns in the cells is a mystery. Smooth plains are occasionally seen to stretch across cell boundaries, which may indicate that the convective system is unstable and constantly evolving, with cells likely splitting apart and recombining.

 

New Horizons’ Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) obtained all the data used to create these images. The colorized left inset uses an image with a resolution of approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel, obtained at a range of about 21,060 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 44 minutes before closest approach on July 14, 2015. Two images were used to create the scattering map: the resolution of the first is approximately 1,620 feet (495 meters) per pixel, and it was obtained at a range of some 15,380 miles (24,750 kilometers) from Pluto, about 29 minutes before closest approach. The resolution of the second is approximately 1,050 feet (320 meters) per pixel, and it was obtained at a range of about 9,940 miles (16,000 kilometers) from Pluto, about 18 minutes before closest approach.

NASA

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Draggendrop    5,747

bits and bytes from The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/index.php        (news center)

 

Video: Imagine a Landing on Pluto

 

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Imagine a future spacecraft following New Horizons' trailblazing path to Pluto, but instead of flying past its target – as New Horizons needed to do to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond – the next visitor touches down near the tall mountains on the frozen icy, plains of Pluto's heart.

No need to wait for that far off trip, though, thanks to new video produced by New Horizons scientists that offers that very perspective. Made from more than 100 New Horizons images taken over six weeks of approach and close flyby, the video offers a trip in to Pluto – starting with a distant spacecraft's-eye view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, to an eventual ride in for a "landing" on the shoreline of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum.

 

"Just over a year ago, Pluto was a dot in the distance," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. "This video shows what it would be like to ride aboard an approaching spacecraft and see Pluto grow to become a world, and then to swoop down over its spectacular terrains as if we were approaching some future landing on them!"

 

"The challenge in creating this movie is to make it feel like you're diving into Pluto," said Constantine Tsang, a New Horizons scientist at SwRI who worked with Stern to create the movie. "We had to interpolate some of the frames based on we know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. It's certainly fun to see this and think what it would feel like to approach a landing on Pluto!"

 

After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto itself. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons has sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are – and what great targets they'd make for follow-up mission one day.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160714-2

 

New Horizons: Imagining a Landing on Pluto

video is 1:41 min.

 

 

 

 

and from ...

 

New Horizons Top 10 Discoveries

 

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New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern rounds out the mission's most surprising and amazing findings from Pluto so far . . .


The complexity of Pluto and its satellites is far beyond what we expected.


The degree of current activity on Pluto's surface and the youth of some surfaces on Pluto are simply astounding.


Pluto's atmospheric hazes and lower-than-predicted atmospheric escape rate upended all of the pre-flyby models.


Charon's enormous equatorial extensional tectonic belt hints at the freezing of a former water ice ocean inside Charon in the distant past. Other evidence found by New Horizons indicates Pluto could well have an internal water-ice ocean today.


All of Pluto's moons that can be age-dated by surface craters have the same, ancient age – adding weight to the theory that they were formed together in a single collision between Pluto and another planet in the Kuiper Belt long ago.


Charon's dark, red polar cap is unprecedented in the solar system and may be the result of atmospheric gases that escaped Pluto and then accreted on Charon's surface.


Pluto's vast 1,000-kilometer-wide heart-shaped nitrogen glacier (informally called Sputnik Planum) that New Horizons discovered is the largest known glacier in the solar system.


Pluto's atmosphere is blue. Who knew?


Pluto shows evidence of vast changes in atmospheric pressure and, possibly, past presence of running or standing liquid volatiles on its surface – something only seen elsewhere on Earth, Mars and Saturn's moon Titan in our solar system.


The lack of additional Pluto satellites beyond what was discovered before New Horizons was unexpected.

more at the link...

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160714

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

New Horizons Observes Quaoar

 

oocompanion.jpg

Quaoar   NASA

 

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NASA's New Horizons is doing some sightseeing along the way, as the spacecraft speeds toward a New Year's Day 2019 date with an ancient object in the distant region beyond Pluto known as 2014 MU69. 


New Horizons recently observed the dwarf planet Quaoar ("Kwa-war"), which - at 690 miles or 1,100 kilometers in diameter - is roughly half the size of Pluto. This animated sequence shows composite images taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at four different times over July 13-14: "A" on July 13 at 02:00 Universal Time; "B" on July 13 at 04:08 UT; "C" on July 14 at 00:06 UT; and "D" on July 14 at 02:18 UT. Each composite includes 24 individual LORRI images, providing a total exposure time of 239 seconds and making the faint object easier to see.

 

New Horizons' location in the Kuiper Belt gives the spacecraft a uniquely oblique view of the small planets like Quaoar orbiting so far from the sun. When these images were taken, Quaoar was approximately 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from the sun and 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion kilometers) from New Horizons. With the oblique view available from New Horizons, LORRI sees only a portion of Quaoar's illuminated surface, which is very different from the nearly fully illuminated view of the dwarf planet from Earth. Comparing Quaoar from the two very different perspectives gives mission scientists a valuable opportunity to study the light-scattering properties of Quaoar's surface.

 

In addition to many background stars, two far away galaxies - IC 1048 and UGC 09485, each about 370 billion times farther from New Horizons than Quaoar - are also visible in these images. Unlike the galaxies and stars, Quaoar appears to move across the background scene due to its much closer distance. Other objects which appear to move in these images are camera artifacts.

 

In June the New Horizons mission received the go-ahead to fly onward to 2014 MU69 -- considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system -- with a planned rendezvous of Jan. 1, 2019.

http://spaceref.com/pluto/new-horizons-observes-quaoar.html

 

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Pluto's Methane Snowcaps on the Edge of Darkness

 

ContextImageUSE.jpg

 

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The southernmost part of Pluto that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft could "see" during closest approach in July 2015 contains a range of fascinating geological features, and offers clues into what might lurk in the regions shrouded in darkness during the flyby.

 

The area shown above is south of Pluto's dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum or Sputnik Planitia, as the mission team recently redesignated the area to more accurately reflect the low elevation of the plains. North is at the top; in the western portion of the image, a chain of bright mountains extends north into Cthulhu Regio. The mountains reveal themselves as snowcapped — something hauntingly familiar from our Earthbased experience. But New Horizons compositional data indicate the bright snowcap material covering these mountains isn't water, but atmospheric methane that has condensed as frost onto these surfaces at high elevation. Between some mountains are sharply cut valleys – indicated by the white arrows below. These valleys are each a few miles across and tens of miles long.

 

A similar valley system in the expansive plains to the east (blue arrows) appears to be branched, with smaller valleys leading into it. New Horizons scientists think flowing nitrogen ice that once covered this area -- perhaps when the ice in Sputnik was at a higher elevation -- may have formed these valleys. The area is also marked by irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions (green arrows) that can reach more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) across and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep. The great widths and depths of these depressions suggest that they may have formed when the surface collapsed, rather than through the sublimation of ice into the atmosphere.

 

This enhanced color image was obtained by New Horizons' 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 to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

 

SouthOfCthulhuColorArrows.jpg

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

 

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160831

 

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Codex Regius    6

Have you ever heard of Edmond Hamilton, the SF-author from the Golden Age? On the left is shown how he imagined Pluto - in 1940! - in his Pulp SF series "Captain Future". We see the eastern hemisphere of Pluto, discovered just 10 years before, and its three moons called Charon, Cerberus/Kerberos and Styx that, according to Hamilton, would be discovered around 1970. Charon is the largest of Pluto's fictitious moons.

Hamiltons+Pluto.png(c) E. Hamilton/gemeinfrei; NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Right: Images of the New Horizons spacecraft, shot in 2015, showing the eastern hemisphere of Pluto (at 270°) and its three moons Charon, Kerberos and Styx including the dates of discovery. Note the ring-shaped structure in the lower right quadrant of both images.

In his novel "Calling Captain Future", published in 1940, Hamilton described a manned landing on Pluto's surface in the light of its three moons. One of the features described are the Marching Mountains - water ice glaciers pushed across Pluto's surface at rapid speed. New Horizons found the Marching Mountains on Sputnik Planum!

 

This is so odd that I could not refrain from mentioning it in my lecture to the Astronomical Society Urania in March 2016 (Video recording - alas, in German only): 

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

^ excellent...feel free to post more "candy"...and welcome to the science section.  :D

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Codex Regius    6

It's not exactly candy: Someone has made a Pluto out of plush (the only dwarf planet that has ever received this honour), and on behalf of my daughter I have mentioned this in the March lecture. 

BTW, is it legitimate to call Pluto that? I am also member of a group where someone comments on every other posting: "STOP CALLING PLUTO A DWARF PLANET!" ;-)

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Draggendrop    5,747
27 minutes ago, Codex Regius said:

It's not exactly candy: Someone has made a Pluto out of plush (the only dwarf planet that has ever received this honour), and on behalf of my daughter I have mentioned this in the March lecture. 

BTW, is it legitimate to call Pluto that? I am also member of a group where someone comments on every other posting: "STOP CALLING PLUTO A DWARF PLANET!" ;-)

Actually, the "candy" was a reference to new data....and the plush toy has been out for awhile, covered several pages back.

 

Pluto is a TNO, Trans Neptunian Object...dwarf planet, due to the re-classification.

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Bamsebjørn    745

It's so amazing to be able to see high resolution photo's of an object more than 32AU away.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto 'Paints' its Largest Moon Red

 

Charon-Neutral-Bright-Release.jpg

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced color view of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. Scientists have learned that reddish material in the north (top) polar region – informally named Mordor Macula – is chemically processed methane that escaped from Pluto’s atmosphere onto Charon. Charon is 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) across; this image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

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In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA's approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto's largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they'd never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn't wait to get the story behind it.

 

Over the past year, after analyzing the images and other data that New Horizons has sent back from its historic July 2015 flight through the Pluto system, the scientists think they've solved the mystery. As they detail this week in the international scientific journal Nature, Charon's polar coloring comes from Pluto itself - as methane gas that escapes from Pluto's atmosphere and becomes "trapped" by the moon's gravity and freezes to the cold, icy surface at Charon's pole. This is followed by chemical processing by ultraviolet light from the sun that transforms the methane into heavier hydrocarbons and eventually into reddish organic materials called tholins.

 

"Who would have thought that Pluto is a graffiti artist, spray-painting its companion with a reddish stain that covers an area the size of New Mexico?" asked Will Grundy, a New Horizons co-investigator from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and lead author of the paper. "Every time we explore, we find surprises. Nature is amazingly inventive in using the basic laws of physics and chemistry to create spectacular landscapes."

 

The team combined analyses from detailed Charon images obtained by New Horizons with computer models of how ice evolves on Charon's poles. Mission scientists had previously speculated that methane from Pluto's atmosphere was trapped in Charon's north pole and slowly converted into the reddish material, but had no models to support that theory.

 

The New Horizons team dug into the data to determine whether conditions on the Texas-sized moon (with a diameter of 753 miles or 1,212 kilometers) could allow the capture and processing of methane gas. The models using Pluto and Charon's 248-year orbit around the sun show some extreme weather at Charon's poles, where 100 years of continuous sunlight alternate with another century of continuous darkness. Surface temperatures during these long winters dip to -430 Fahrenheit (-257 Celsius), cold enough to freeze methane gas into a solid.

 

"The methane molecules bounce around on Charon's surface until they either escape back into space or land on the cold pole, where they freeze solid, forming a thin coating of methane ice that lasts until sunlight comes back in the spring," Grundy said. But while the methane ice quickly sublimates away, the heavier hydrocarbons created from it remain on the surface.

 

The models also suggested that in Charon's springtime the returning sunlight triggers conversion of the frozen methane back into gas. But while the methane ice quickly sublimates away, the heavier hydrocarbons created from this evaporative process remain on the surface.

 

Sunlight further irradiates those leftovers into reddish material - called tholins - that has slowly accumulated on Charon's poles over millions of years. New Horizons' observations of Charon's other pole, currently in winter darkness - and seen by New Horizons only by light reflecting from Pluto, or "Pluto-shine" - confirmed that the same activity was occurring at both poles.

 

"This study solves one of the greatest mysteries we found on Charon, Pluto's giant moon," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute, and a study co-author. "And it opens up the possibility that other small planets in the Kuiper Belt with moons may create similar, or even more extensive 'atmospheric transfer' features on their moons."

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160914

 

Weird Red Spot on Pluto's Moon Charon Caused by Traveling Atmosphere

http://www.space.com/34066-pluto-moon-charon-red-spot-source.html

 

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X-ray Detection Sheds New Light on Pluto

 

Pluto_Main-Chandra.jpg

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using the Chandra telescope in conjunction with observations from the New Horizons spacecraft as it approached and then flew by the dwarf planet in 2015. During four observations, Chandra detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet due to interactions between Pluto's atmosphere and a wind of particles from the Sun. The main panel in this graphic is an optical image taken from New Horizons on its approach to Pluto, while the inset shows an image of Pluto in X-rays from Chandra (not to the same scale). This result offers new insight into the environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system's outermost regions. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Chandra X-Ray Center

 

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New Horizons scientists using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system's outermost regions.

 

While the New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.

 

Pluto is the largest object in the Kuiper Belt, a ring or belt containing a vast population of small bodies orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune. The Kuiper Belt extends from the orbit of Neptune, at 30 times the distance of Earth from the Sun, to about 50 times the Earth-Sun distance. Pluto's orbit ranges over the same span as the overall Kuiper Belt.

 

"We've just detected, for the first time, X-rays coming from an object in our Kuiper Belt, and learned that Pluto is interacting with the solar wind in an unexpected and energetic fashion," said Carey Lisse, an astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, who led the Chandra observation team with APL colleague and New Horizons Co-Investigator Ralph McNutt. "We can expect other large Kuiper Belt objects to be doing the same."

 

The team recently published its findings online in the journal Icarus. The report details what Lisse says was a somewhat surprising detection given that Pluto – being cold, rocky and without a magnetic field – has no natural mechanism for emitting X-rays. But Lisse, having also led the team that made the first X-ray detections from a comet two decades ago, knew the interaction between the gases surrounding such planetary bodies and the solar wind – the constant streams of charged particles from the sun that speed throughout the solar system — can create X-rays.

 

New Horizons scientists were particularly interested in learning more about the interaction between the gases in Pluto's atmosphere and the solar wind. The spacecraft itself carries an instrument designed to measure that activity up-close – the aptly named Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) – and scientists are using that data to craft a picture of Pluto that contains a very mild, close-in bowshock, where the solar wind first "meets" Pluto (similar to a shock wave that forms ahead of a supersonic aircraft) and a small wake or tail behind the planet.

 

The immediate mystery is that Chandra's readings on the brightness of the X-rays are much higher than expected from the solar wind interacting with Pluto's atmosphere.

 

"Before our observations, scientists thought it was highly unlikely that we'd detect X-rays from Pluto, causing a strong debate as to whether Chandra should observe it at all," said co-author Scott Wolk, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "Prior to Pluto, the most distant solar system body with detected X-ray emission was Saturn's rings and disk."

 

The Chandra detection is especially surprising since New Horizons discovered Pluto's atmosphere was much more stable than the rapidly escaping, "comet-like" atmosphere that many scientists expected before the spacecraft flew past in July 2015. In fact, New Horizons found that Pluto's interaction with the solar wind is much more like the interaction of the solar wind with Mars, than with a comet. However, although Pluto is releasing enough gas from its atmosphere to make the observed X-rays, in simple models for the intensity of the solar wind at the distance of Pluto, there isn't enough solar wind flowing directly at Pluto to make them.

more at the link...

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160914-2

 

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

 

:D

 

 

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Jim K    13,631

Brandon Johnson, geologist at Brown University believes it is likely that water exist 100km below Pluto's 'heart'.

Quote

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —Ever since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto last year, evidence has been mounting that the dwarf planet may have a liquid ocean beneath its icy shell. Now, by modeling the impact dynamics that created a massive crater on Pluto’s surface, a team of researchers has made a new estimate of how thick that liquid layer might be.

 

The study, led by Brown University geologist Brandon Johnson and published in Geophysical Research Letters, finds a high likelihood that there’s more than 100 kilometers of liquid water beneath Pluto’s surface. The research also offers a clue about the composition of that ocean, suggesting that it likely has a salt content similar to that of the Dead Sea.

 

“Thermal models of Pluto’s interior and tectonic evidence found on the surface suggest that an ocean may exist, but it’s not easy to infer its size or anything else about it,” said Johnson, who is an assistant professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. “We’ve been able to put some constraints on its thickness and get some clues about composition.”

 

The research focused on Sputnik Planum, a basin 900 kilometers across that makes up the western lobe the famous heart-shaped feature revealed during the New Horizons flyby. The basin appears to have been created by an impact, likely by an object 200 kilometers across or larger.

 

The story of how the basin relates to Pluto’s putative ocean starts with its position on the planet relative to Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Pluto and Charon are tidally locked with each other, meaning they always show each other the same face as they rotate. Sputnik Planum sits directly on the tidal axis linking the two worlds. That position suggests that the basin has what’s called a positive mass anomaly — it has more mass than average for Pluto’s icy crust. As Charon’s gravity pulls on Pluto, it would pull proportionally more on areas of higher mass, which would tilt the planet until Sputnik Planum became aligned with the tidal axis.

 

/snip

 

Rest of the detailed article at Brown University

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Jim K    13,631
Quote

New Horizons: Possible Clouds on Pluto, Next Target is Reddish

 

Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, is as red, if not redder, than Pluto. This is the first hint at the surface properties of the far flung object that New Horizons will survey on Jan. 1, 2019.

 

Mission scientists are discussing this and other Pluto and Kuiper Belt findings this week at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California.

 

“We’re excited about the exploration ahead for New Horizons, and also about what we are still discovering from Pluto flyby data,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Now, with our spacecraft transmitting the last of its data from last summer’s flight through the Pluto system, we know that the next great exploration of Pluto will require another mission to be sent there.”

 

Stern said that Pluto’s complex, layered atmosphere is hazy and appears to be mostly free of clouds, but the team has spied a handful of potential clouds in images taken with New Horizons’ cameras.  “If there are clouds, it would mean the weather on Pluto is even more complex than we imagined,” Stern said.

 

nh-possiblecloudsonpluto.jpg

Partly Cloudy on Pluto? Pluto’s present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds, though scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates after examining images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera, during the spacecraft’s July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. All are low-lying, isolated small features—no broad cloud decks or fields – and while none of the features can be confirmed with stereo imaging, scientists say they are suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds.

 

While Pluto shows many kinds of activity, one surface process apparently missing is landslides. Surprisingly, though, they have been spotted on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, itself some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) across. “We’ve seen similar landslides on other rocky and icy planets, such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Iapetus, but these are the first landslides we’ve seen this far from the sun, in the Kuiper Belt,” said Ross Beyer, a science team researcher from Sagan Center at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, California. “The big question is will they be detected elsewhere in the Kuiper Belt?”

 

Both Hubble and cameras on the New Horizons spacecraft have been aimed at KBOs over the past two years, with New Horizons taking advantage of its unique vantage point in the Kuiper Belt to observe nearly a dozen small worlds in this barely explored region. MU69 is actually the smallest KBO to have its color measured – and scientists have used that data to confirm the object is part of the so-called cold classical region of the Kuiper Belt, which is believed to contain some of the oldest, most prehistoric material in the solar system.

 

“The reddish color tells us the type of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 is,” said Amanda Zangari, a New Horizons post-doctoral researcher from Southwest Research Institute. “The data confirms that on New Year’s Day 2019, New Horizons will be looking at one of the ancient building blocks of the planets.”

 

The New Horizons spacecraft is currently 3.4 billion miles (5.5 billion kilometers) from Earth and about 340 million miles (540 million kilometers) beyond Pluto, speeding away from the sun at about nine miles (14 kilometers) every second. About 99 percent of the data New Horizons gathered and stored on its digital recorders during the Pluto encounter has now been transmitted back to Earth, with that transmission set to be completed Oct. 23. New Horizons has covered about one-third of the distance from Pluto to its next flyby target, which is now about 600 million miles (nearly 1 billion kilometers) ahead.

 

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. In addition to being the home of the mission principal investigator, SwRI, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and science planning. New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

NASA

 

Capture.JPG

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

Clouds would leave one to believe that the weather system on Pluto is even more complex than initially imagined.

 

This is outstanding news...can't wait for further analysis on the creation of these clouds.

 

Thank's for sharing this jjkusaf.

 

:D

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Yeah, I saw this earlier today also. Neat! Heck of an opportunity to get some really really good science done out there, and with some modern gear that the Voyagers weren't packing.

 

Can't wait to see what surprises the KBO has in store for us ... and if it's "reddish", it has to be Tholin deposits. Now we have a way better idea what our formative nebula's composition was thanks to New Horizons. Lots of free H2O, Carbon, Nitrogen, Silicates and Metals toward the IP (our Sun); free Hydrogen, Helium and Oxygen -- and more H2O the further out you go (out by Jupiter, where the Sun couldn't overcome its' gravity anymore) transitioning to a bit of Sulfur (that Jupiter captured) then a huge swath of Hydrogen, Helium, Ammonia, Methane and H2O. We're seeing H2O literally everywhere in the Solar System. :yes: 

 

That "Progenitor Nebula" of ours would have been quite the show of colors, and super-rich with everything on the Periodic Table. Obviously it was a Supernova Remnant ... it's the only way to end up with stuff like Lead, Gold, Uranium, and so forth. Earth (and likely Mercury, Venus and Mars) has it all in pretty decent abundances. The fact that our Nebula had so much H2O and Methane is telling, isn't it? :) We're finding almost as much Methane as we are H2O -- aka "everywhere we look!"

 

Dig it ... I love Planetary Science.

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Draggendrop    5,747

Look Out Below! Landslides Spotted on Pluto's Moon Charon

 

charon-serenity-chasma.jpg?interpolation

"Serenity Chasma" on Pluto's moon Charon, taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 48,912 miles (78,717 kilometers).
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

Quote

The landslides on Charon were spotted by NASA's New Horizons probe, which made a close flyby of the Pluto system in July 2015. According to New Horizons scientists, this is the first evidence of landslides in the Kuiper Belt, the region of icy, rocky bodies that lies beyond Neptune's orbit and includes the Pluto system. 

 

It's unclear what caused the landslides, but possibilities include tectonic activity below the surface, or meteorite impacts, according to Ross Beyer, a New Horizons team member and researcher at the SETI Institute. Beyer discussed the finding at a news conference at the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences 2016 meeting in Pasadena, California. 

 

charon-serenity-chasma-landslides.jpg?14

Red and yellow arrows indicate the presence of landslides in Serenity Chasma on Pluto's largest moon, Charon.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

Quote

Four landslides were spotted on Charon in total, all in Serenity Chasma, which is part of a vast belt of deep canyons bordered by cliffs stretching for 1,100 miles (1,800 km) and reaching heights of up to 4.5 miles (7.2 km), according to NASA. In those areas, the scientists can see that material has dropped vertically down the cliffs and then moved horizontally into the canyon. 

 

For a geologic event to be considered a landslide, it must involve a large amount of material that moves very quickly, and moves vertically (falls downward) as well as horizontally, Beyer said. 

 

Based on the available data, Beyer said scientists have a lot of open questions about the landslides, including how and when they formed. The presence of landslides doesn't provide any new information about the chemical composition of the surface of Charon, but it does reveal something about the strength of that material. 

 

"One of the requirements for a landslide is, you have a steepened slope that can then fail," Beyer said, adding that not all materials are strong enough to create such a slope. "On Charon, we think that [the material] is a strong, cold water ice that makes up all of the surface that we primarily see there."

 

charon-serenity-chasma-perspective.jpg?1

This perspective view of Charon's informally named "Serenity Chasm" consists of topography generated from stereo reconstruction of images taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), supplemented by a "shape-from-shading" algorithm. The topography is then overlain with an image mosaic.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

Quote

Beyer said the images from Charon do not have a high enough resolution for the research team to see what the material in these landslides looks like, or whether the water ice is broken up into very large chunks or smaller granules. With better resolution, it might also be possible to look for meteor impact craters on the surface of the landslides, which would help scientists figure out when the landslide took place. 

 

Landslides have been spotted on other icy bodies in the solar system, like on Saturn's moon Iapetus. But Beyer said this is the first time they have been discovered in the Kuiper Belt, which is the region of icy, rocky bodies that lies beyond the orbit of Neptune and includes the Pluto system.

http://www.space.com/34443-landslides-on-pluto-moon-charon.html

 

:woot:

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto Exploration Complete:
New Horizons Returns Last Bits of 2015 Flyby Data to Earth

 

Quote

October 27, 2016

 

NASA's New Horizons mission reached a major milestone this week when the last bits of science data from the Pluto flyby – stored on the spacecraft's digital recorders since July 2015 – arrived safely on Earth.

 

Having traveled from the New Horizons spacecraft over 3.1 billion miles (five hours, eight minutes at light speed), the final item – a segment of a Pluto-Charon observation sequence taken by the Ralph/LEISA imager – arrived at mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, at 5:48 a.m. EDT on Oct. 25. The downlink came via NASA's Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia. It was the last of the 50-plus total gigabits of Pluto system data transmitted to Earth by New Horizons over the past 15 months.

 

"The Pluto system data that New Horizons collected has amazed us over and over again with the beauty and complexity of Pluto and its system of moons," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "There's a great deal of work ahead for us to understand the 400-plus scientific observations that have all been sent to Earth. And that's exactly what we're going to do—after all, who knows when the next data from a spacecraft visiting Pluto will be sent?"

 

Because it had only one shot at its target, New Horizons was designed to gather as much data as it could, as quickly as it could – taking about 100 times more data on close approach to Pluto and its moons than it could have sent home before flying onward. The spacecraft was programmed to send select, high-priority datasets home in the days just before and after close approach, and began returning the vast amount of remaining stored data in September 2015.

 

"We have our pot of gold," said Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of APL.

 

Bowman said the team will conduct a final data-verification review before erasing the two onboard recorders, and clearing space for new data to be taken during the New Horizons Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) that will include a series of distant Kuiper Belt object observations and a close encounter with a small Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20161027

 

There is a video at the link with an explanation of downlink time...but utube's sequence #'s are mixed up...click on link in article...Thanks...:s

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Draggendrop    5,747

Pluto's Icy Slushy Heart

 

oonh-pluto_crop.jpg

Pluto      NASA

 

Quote

Beneath Pluto's "heart" lies a cold, slushy ocean of water ice, according to data from NASA's New Horizons mission.

 

In a paper published today in the journal Nature [http://www.nature.com], the New Horizons team, including researchers from MIT, reports that the dwarf planet's most prominent surface feature -- a heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Regio -- may harbor a bulging, viscous, liquid ocean just below its surface.

 

The existence of a subsurface ocean may solve a longstanding puzzle: For decades, astronomers have observed that Tombaugh Regio, which is Pluto's brightest region, aligns almost exactly opposite from the dwarf planet's moon, Charon, in a locked orientation that has lacked a convincing explanation.

 

A thick, heavy ocean, the new data suggest, may have served as a "gravitational anomaly," or weight, which would factor heavily in Pluto and Charon's gravitational tug-of-war. Over millions of years, the planet would have spun around, aligning its subsurface ocean and the heart-shaped region above it, almost exactly opposite along the line connecting Pluto and Charon.

 

"Pluto is hard to fathom on so many different levels," says New Horizons co-investigator Richard Binzel, professor of Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at MIT. Binzel is also a joint professor of aerospace engineering and a faculty affiliate with the MIT Kavli Institute. "People had considered whether you could get a subsurface layer of water somewhere on Pluto. What's surprising is that we would have any information from a flyby that would give a compelling argument as to why there might be a subsurface ocean there. Pluto just continues to surprise us."

 

Quote

During its flyby of Pluto, New Horizons collected measurements of surface features, including the dimensions of Pluto's bright, heart-shaped region. In particular, the spacecraft focused on a circular region in its left "ventricle," named Sputnik Planitia, which is thought to be a giant impact basin.

 

From the probe's measurements, Binzel and his colleagues determined the size and depth of Sputnik Planitia.

 

"It's similar in proportional size to the largest basins on Mercury and Mars," Binzel says.

 

The researchers determined that the heart-shaped region, and Sputnik Planitia in particular, is aligned almost exactly opposite from Charon.

 

"The New Horizons data say it's not only opposite Charon, but it's really close to being almost exactly opposite," Binzel says. "So we asked, what's the chance of that randomly happening? And it's less than 5 percent that it would be so perfectly opposite. And then the question becomes, what was it that caused this alignment?"

 

Quote

In a separate paper that was published online in September in the journal Icarus, Earle modeled Pluto's surface temperatures over millions of years and found that while the poles experience wild swings in temperature, with long frigid winters and equally long, hot summers, the equator has more moderate temperatures. That's because it cycles through daytime and nighttime fairly regularly, every three days.

 

Earle found that if bright ice builds up at the poles, it simply melts away when summer returns. But if that same ice forms near the equator, it never gets warm enough to melt away.

 

"What makes the equator unique is, if you put a bright spot there, because it never gets too hot or cold, then the bright spot will always stay cold," Earle says. "If ice accumulates at the equator, it can hang onto it."

 

Earle modeled the region's temperatures over millions of years, looking at the tilt of Pluto's axis, its orientation to the Sun, and its daily rotation. From all this, she found that Sputnik Planitia's ice sheet likely has persisted for millions of years. The long-lived deposit of ice on Pluto's "heart" may have also played a role in orienting the planet toward its moon.

 

"This basin probably has been there a long time and had this bright ice spot for a very long time," Earl says. "And that may have helped to get it rotated to where it is today."

more at the link...

http://spaceref.com/pluto/plutos-icy-slushy-heart.html

 

Pluto's Wandering Heart Hints at Subsurface Ocean

http://www.space.com/34737-pluto-wandering-heart-subsurface-ocean.html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_campaign=socialtwitterspc&cmpid=social_spc_514648

 

 

 

 

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,676

Could there be life in Pluto's ocean?

December 1, 2016 by Diana Lutz

Article Link | phys.org Website

couldtherebe.jpg

View of Pluto with color-coded topography as measured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. Purple and blue are low and yellow and red are high, and the informally named Sputnik Planitia stands out at top as a broad, 1300 km- (800 mile-) wide, 2.5 km- (1.5 mile-) deep elliptical basin, most likely the site of an ancient impact on Pluto. New Horizons data imply that deep beneath this nitrogen-ice filled basin is an ocean of dense, salty, ammonia-rich water. Credit: P.M. Schenk LPI/JHUAPL/SwRI/NASA

Quote

Pluto is thought to possess a subsurface ocean, which is not so much a sign of water as it is a tremendous clue that other dwarf planets in deep space also may contain similarly exotic oceans, naturally leading to the question of life, said one co-investigator with NASA's New Horizon mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

 

William McKinnon, professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and a co-author on two of four new Pluto studies published Dec. 1 in Nature, argues that beneath the heart-shaped region on Pluto known as Sputnik Planitia there lies an ocean laden with ammonia.

 

The presence of the pungent, colorless liquid helps to explain not only Pluto's orientation in space but also the persistence of the massive, ice-capped ocean that other researchers call "slushy"—but McKinnon prefers to depict as syrupy.

 

Using computer models along with topographical and compositional data culled from the New Horizon spacecraft's July 2015 flyby of Pluto, McKinnon led a study on Sputnik Planitia's churning nitrogen ice surface that appeared this past June in Nature. He is also an author on the recently released study regarding the orientation and gravity of Pluto caused by this subsurface ocean some 600 miles wide and more than 50 miles thick.

 

"In fact, New Horizons has detected ammonia as a compound on Pluto's big moon, Charon, and on one of Pluto's small moons. So it's almost certainly inside Pluto," McKinnon said. "What I think is down there in the ocean is rather noxious, very cold, salty and very ammonia-rich—almost a syrup.

 

"It's no place for germs, much less fish or squid, or any life as we know it," he added. "But as with the methane seas on Titan—Saturn's main moon—it raises the question of whether some truly novel life forms could exist in these exotic, cold liquids."

 

As humankind explores deeper into the Kuiper Belt and farther from Earth, this means to McKinnon the possible discovery of more such subsurface seas and more potential for exotic life.

"The idea that bodies of Pluto's scale, of which there are more than one out there in the Kuiper Belt, they could all have these kinds of oceans. But they'd be very exotic compared to what we think of as an ocean," McKinnon said.

 

"Life can tolerate a lot of stuff: It can tolerate a lot of salt, extreme cold, extreme heat, etc. But I don't think it can tolerate the amount of ammonia Pluto needs to prevent its ocean from freezing—ammonia is a superb antifreeze. Not that ammonia is all bad. On Earth, microorganisms in the soil fix nitrogen to ammonia, which is important for making DNA and proteins and such.

 

...

 

"All of these ideas about an ocean inside Pluto are credible, but they are inferences, not direct detections," McKinnon said, sounding the call. "If we want to confirm that such an ocean exists, we will need gravity measurements or subsurface radar sounding, all of which could be accomplished by a future orbiter mission to Pluto. It's up to the next generation to pick up where New Horizons left off!"

(Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-12-life-pluto-ocean.html#jCp)

Interesting hypothesis. Certainly in the realm of possibility, but the Pluto-Charon system might just have the right stuff. That gravitational tug-of-war going on might generate enough energy to keep Pluto's interior warm enough ... :yes: Any other Dwarf Planet I'd say "no", because there's not enough mass to keep the interior warm. But here .... yeah. Plausible.

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Draggendrop    5,747

 

 

 

Prickly Pluto Could Reveal Ice Spikes Are Common on Other Worlds

 

pluto.jpg?interpolation=lanczos-none&dow

Credit: NASA

 

Quote

When New Horizons whizzed by Pluto in 2015, images from the spacecraft revealed a geologist's dream. Icy mountains, a nitrogen glacier and a surprisingly youthful surface changed our notions of the distant dwarf planet forever. And even 18 months after the flyby, discoveries continue to pour in as scientists analyze the treasure trove of data.

 

The latest Pluto finding is evidence of features called "penitentes" — if confirmed this would be the first time these icy formations have been found beyond Earth. On our home planet, we know these icy spikes can grow up to several feet tall. They form in high-altitude environments, where the atmosphere is thinner and melting ice moves directly to vapor without a liquid phase in between. This sublimation (as the process is called) leaves bowl-shaped depressions behind.

 

But that's not all. John Moores, the lead author of the discovery paper in the journal Nature, says these features may well be in other locations across the solar system. Jupiter's Europa, for example, is a prime suspect given that radar signatures from the Galileo spacecraft suggest they could be there. But he says penitentes may even lurk in more familiar realms — even on Mars.

 

"We want to investigate other places in the solar system, or perhaps other solar systems, where you expect these features to show up," said Moores, who is with Canada's York University. He pointed out that penitentes may even lurk below the resolution of photos we took at planets and moons in the past. "If they were to be small, they may be in places we feel we already understand."

 

bladed-terrain-pluto.jpg?1484697487?inte

This is "bladed terrain" on Pluto seen by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera. Images of the dwarf planet appear to show terrain consistent with a feature called penitentes.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

 

Quote

Regardless of whether penitentes are common — or unique to Earth and Pluto — the find on the dwarf planet shows some remarkable characteristics. Pluto's penitentes are made of methane ice, while on Earth they're composed of water ice. Pluto's are more widely spread apart than what we find on Earth, where Moores says graduate students have trouble clambering among the spikes. On Pluto, by contrast, it appears the features are separated by a couple of miles. So there's plenty of room to set down a lander if we wanted.

 

What's more, the penitentes suggest that Pluto had calm atmospheric conditions over long periods of time, perhaps tens of millions of years. Regularly spaced and shaped penitentes, like what we see on Pluto, require an atmosphere; irregularly ones could develop where no substantial atmosphere is present, like Europa. Pluto's atmosphere expands and collapses as it gets further and closer from the sun in its nearly 248-year orbit.

 

From numerical models, the team suggests that the penitentes could start growing (and continue developing) given warm enough atmospheric conditions for just a few years at a time.

 

"The winds on Pluto are really light, and there's only one period in every orbit where the atmosphere grows thick enough to control the creation of these types of features," Moores said. The active time right now is during the spring equinox, but Pluto's orbit has changed over the years; in the more distant past, penitentes best grew during the autumnal equinox, he said.

 

While Moores' team looks to other worlds for evidence of penitentes, they are also eagerly waiting for two Jupiter missions that will explore the icy moons — the proposed NASA Europa mission, and Europe's confirmed JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer). These missions are expected to visit Jupiter's system around the 2030s, focusing on Europa (in the Europa Clipper's case) and Ganymede (for JUICE).

more at the link...

http://www.space.com/35355-pluto-new-horizons-ice-spikes-earth-atmosphere-formations-water-methane.html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_campaign=socialtwitterspc&cmpid=social_spc_514648

 

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

 

 

 

Pluto 'Landing' In Color Created From New Horizons' Imagery | Video

video is 1:47 min.

 

 

 

:)

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