Outer Solar System

Pluto: Encounter and Aftermath

July 15, 2015

Exoplanet hunter Greg Laughlin (UC-Santa Cruz), who could make a living as a poet (if it were possible to make a living as a poet) wrote recently of his hope for a Pluto image “ that will become a touchstone, a visual shorthand for distance, isolation, frigidity and exile.” We haven’t seen that one yet, […]

Read the full article →

Closest Approach!

July 14, 2015

Closest approach for New Horizons was at 0749:57 EDT (1149:57 UTC), with closest approach to Charon at about 0806 EDT. Mission operations manager Alice Bowman told the media briefing that we arrived at Pluto 72 seconds early and 70 kilometers closer than the aiming point, all of which was well within mission specs. Nice work. […]

Read the full article →

New Horizons Countdown

July 13, 2015

We’re under the 24 hour mark for the Pluto flyby. NASA will offer a news briefing for New Horizons (check NASA TV), covering mission status and what to expect during flyby, at 1030 EDT (1430 UTC) today, a schedule change that moves the time up by half an hour. On Tuesday morning, the agency will […]

Read the full article →

Charon: A Rugged, Cratered Surface

July 12, 2015

A chasm in Charon’s southern hemisphere turns out to be longer and deeper than Earth’s Grand Canyon, says William McKinnon (Washington University, St. Louis), deputy lead scientist with New Horizon’s Geology and Geophysics investigation team. “This is the first clear evidence of faulting and surface disruption on Charon. New Horizons has transformed our view of […]

Read the full article →

Last Look at Pluto’s ‘Far Side’

July 11, 2015

The side of Pluto that always faces its large moon Charon is the side that New Horizons won’t see when it makes its close flyby on July 14. That makes the image below what principal investigator Alan Stern is calling “the last, best look that anyone will have of Pluto’s far side for decades to […]

Read the full article →

New Horizons: Detecting Geology

July 11, 2015

Pluto’s surface is beginning to be revealed, with the first signs of geological features, as principal investigator Alan Stern explains: “Among the structures tentatively identified in this new image are what appear to be polygonal features; a complex band of terrain stretching east-northeast across the planet, approximately 1,000 miles long; and a complex region where […]

Read the full article →

New Horizons: Flyby Schedule, Images

July 10, 2015

New Horizons makes its closest approach to Pluto, at approximately 12,500 kilometers above the surface, at 0749 EDT (1149 UTC) on Tuesday July 14. Be aware that for much of that day, we’ll be out of communication with the spacecraft while it’s busy gathering data. About 2102 EDT (0102 UTC on the 15th), we should […]

Read the full article →

New Horizons: A ‘Timing Flaw’ Scare Resolved

July 6, 2015

You get to expect the unexpected when writing about space probes, but somehow what New Horizons did to my weekend completely blind-sided me. Running a routine check of email before (I thought) sliding into the rest of a relaxing work break, I found messages about the glitch on the Pluto-bound spacecraft. Sunday turned into an […]

Read the full article →

Capturing Sedna: A Close Stellar Encounter?

June 24, 2015

With New Horizons scheduled for its flyby of Pluto/Charon in a matter of weeks and a Kuiper Belt extended mission to follow, it’s interesting to note a new paper on objects well beyond Pluto’s orbit. Lucie Jílková (Leiden Observatory) and colleagues address the problem of Sedna and recently discovered 2012VP113. The problem they present is […]

Read the full article →

Charon’s ‘Dark Pole’

June 23, 2015

An abrupt change: I’m holding today’s post (about halfway done, on a stellar flyby that may have produced Sedna and other such objects long in our system’s past) to turn to New Horizons’ latest imagery, which is provocative indeed. We’ll cover the Sedna story tomorrow. What we have from New Horizons is the work of […]

Read the full article →