My roundup from notes on the day's presentations on dust in the Pluto system and the surfaces and interiors of Pluto and Charon.
Remembering the Pluto Campaign: A Success Story
The Society Worked for Years to Help Launch a Mission to Pluto
The New Horizons mission to Pluto survived many near-death encounters with cancellation during its development. The Planetary Society worked the whole time to ensure it would launch.
Pluto's moons, formerly known as "P4" and "P5," are now named Kerberos and Styx; I thought I'd help place them into context with a little help from Cassini. Also, Neptune now has a 14th known moon.
Back in 2005 and 2006, when Pluto’s second and third moons (Nix and Hydra) were discovered, searches by astronomers for still more moons didn’t reveal any. So the accidental discovery of Pluto’s fourth moon by the Hubble Space Telescope in mid-2011 raised the possibility that the hazards in the Pluto system might be greater than previously anticipated.
New Horizons might see a Pluto with a northern polar cap, a southern polar cap, or both caps, according to work by Leslie Young.
Last week, I posted an explainer on why Hubble's images of galaxies show so much more detail than its images of Pluto. Then I set you all a homework problem: when will New Horizons be able to see Pluto better than Hubble does? Here's the answer.
How come Hubble's pictures of galaxies billions of light years away are so beautifully detailed, yet the pictures of Pluto, which is so much closer, are just little blobs? I get asked this question, or variations of it, a lot. Here's an explainer.
Recently, several of the Kuiper Belt Objects our team has discovered while searching for New Horizons post-Pluto flyby candidates have been submitted to the Minor Planet Center and their orbital information is now in the public domain.
Pluto is now known to have at least five moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, P4, and the newly discovered P5), and its burgeoning population might pose a risk to New Horizons during its flyby, three years from now.
A newly published paper shows trans-Neptunian object Salacia to be unexpectedly large; it's somewhere around the tenth largest known thing beyond Neptune. It has a companion one-third its size, making it appear similar to Orcus and Vanth.
Earlier today I wrote a post about how to calculate the position of a body in space from its orbital elements. I'm trying to get a big-picture view of what's going on in trans-Neptunian space.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/10/04 11:18 CDT
It's been a very full day at the DPS-EPSC 2011 joint meeting. My day was less full than it might have been, because I overslept and missed most of the morning's session. I really needed the rest though so I think it was probably for the best!
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/30 11:27 CDT
Today and tomorrow I'm attending the New Horizons Workshop on Icy Surface Processes. The first day was all about the composition of the surface and atmosphere of Pluto, Charon, Triton, and other distant places.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/25 01:45 CDT
NASA funds regular meetings of scientists who work on different parts of the solar system to provide scientific input into NASA's future plans. These "analysis groups" are known by their acronyms, all of which sound kind of horrible, but none has quite as terrible-sounding an acronym as "SBAG," usually pronouced "ess-bag," the Small Bodies Assessment Group.
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/08/16 08:42 CDT
While doing my daily reading today I was struck by the awesomeness of two recent blog posts. Both were composed not by professional bloggers like me but by professional space explorers, one a scientist and the other an engineer.