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Pluto on the Eve of Exploration by New Horizons: Is there an ocean, or not?

Emily Lakdawalla • August 02, 2013

Does Pluto have an ocean under its ice? If it doesn't now, did it ever have one? How will we know?

Pluto on the Eve of Exploration by New Horizons: Small moons, dust, surfaces, interiors

Emily Lakdawalla • July 24, 2013

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

Casey Dreier • July 22, 2013

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.

New names for Pluto's little moons Kerberos and Styx; and a new moon for Neptune

Emily Lakdawalla • July 15, 2013

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.

New Horizons: Encounter Planning Accelerates

Alan Stern • May 17, 2013

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.

Pluto's seasons and what New Horizons may find when it passes by

Emily Lakdawalla • May 02, 2013

New Horizons might see a Pluto with a northern polar cap, a southern polar cap, or both caps, according to work by Leslie Young.

When will New Horizons have better views of Pluto than Hubble does?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 18, 2013

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.

Why can Hubble get detailed views of distant galaxies but not of Pluto?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 14, 2013

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.

New Contest: Name the Moons of Pluto!

Emily Lakdawalla • February 11, 2013

The discoverers of Pluto's fourth and fifth moons are inviting the public to vote on (and write in candidates for) their formal names. Voting closes in two weeks.

Kuiper Belt Objects Submitted to Minor Planet Center

Alex Parker • January 25, 2013

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.

Alan Stern Returns to Planetary Radio

Mat Kaplan • November 27, 2012

The New Horizons Pluto mission PI provides an update, and introduces his new public project called Uwingu.

DPS 2012: Double occultation by Pluto and Charon

Emily Lakdawalla • October 26, 2012

A few talks at last week's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting discussed observations of a double occultation -- both Pluto and Charon passing in front of the same star.

A fifth moon for Pluto, and a possible hazard for New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • July 16, 2012

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.

Salacia: As big as Ceres, but much farther away

Emily Lakdawalla • June 26, 2012

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.

Where are the big Kuiper belt objects?

Emily Lakdawalla • February 16, 2012

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.

Visiting the San Diego SpaceUp Unconference

Mat Kaplan • February 14, 2012

Emily Lakdawalla and I drove down to the 3rd annual San Diego SpaceUp Unconference on February 4. We had great fun hanging out with the other space geeks.

Eris and embargoes (or: don't fear Ingelfinger!)

Emily Lakdawalla • October 12, 2011

Last Tuesday at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting Bruno Sicardy presented the results of his research group's observations of a stellar occultation by Eris.

Brief notes from Day 2 of the DPS-EPSC meeting

Emily Lakdawalla • October 04, 2011

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!

New Horizons workshop, day 1: Chemistry & climate on Pluto & other cold places

Emily Lakdawalla • August 30, 2011

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.

Meeting today: The infelicitously named "SBAG"

Emily Lakdawalla • August 25, 2011

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.

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