Apr 302015

NASA’s New Horizons Detects Pluto Surface Features, Including Possible Polar Cap

Durned if Pluto doesn’t look… lumpy. Probably a trick of the light, as Pluto is far too big and massive to have much of a divergence from spherical.

nh-stern_6 nh-stern_5


 Posted by at 12:29 am
  • Adam

    I’m looking forward to seeing some nice up-close fly-by images of Pluto.

    Also, will we ever go to Eris?

    • se jones

      Ever is a long time, who knows?
      There are no plans, but if the Pluto system turns out to be incredibly surprising and interesting (not just…oh boy, more craters), with enough advances in space technology maybe a mission could be launched in a decade or two.

      Or…our AI overlords will need to mine Eris for the materials they’ll need to push out into the Galaxy to find and do battle with any other AI probes or their precursor civilizations.

  • Phil

    Oh, this is going to be fun. I am very happy about this mission.

  • Michel Van

    if look on that zoom 2X of Pluto
    can it be that Pluto is asymmetric in form ?
    or piece missing who are now his moons ?

    • Scottlowther

      It certainly *looks* non-spherical. But I’d bet that what we’re seeing is a spherical body with bright spots and dark spots. When the target is only a few pixels wide, the dark areas might not show up at all, so you just see the bright spots.

      • se jones

        It’s round. Pluto has been characterized by stellar occultations for decades. No pixels even needed, just good time rez light curves and a bit of luck.

        • se jones

          never go back ‘n read your own posts.
          That’s good, time-rez (as in time resolution) light curves, not good time rez. However, Good Times does make a tasty burger.

  • se jones

    She’s down.
    Rest in peace Messenger, you were a great bird.

    April 30, 2015

    Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in
    Laurel, Md., confirmed today that NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury,
    as predicted, at 3:26 p.m. EDT this afternoon (3:34 p.m. ground time).

    Mission controllers were able to confirm the end of operations just a few minutes later at 3:40 p.m., when no signal was detected by the Deep Space Network (DSN) station in Goldstone, California, at the time the spacecraft would have emerged from behind the planet had MESSENGER not impacted the surface. This conclusion was independently confirmed by the DSN’s Radio Science team, who were simultaneously looking for the signal from MESSENGER from their posts in