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Blog Archive


The Mapping of Pluto Begins Today

Posted by Mark Showalter on 2015/03/20 12:12 CDT | 7 comments

When New Horizons flies past Pluto in July, we will see a new, alien landscape in stark detail. At that point, we will have a lot to talk about. The only way we can talk about it is if those features, whatever they turn out to be, have names.

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What to expect when you're expecting a flyby: Planning your July around New Horizons' Pluto pictures

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/10 07:06 CDT | 18 comments

As New Horizons approaches Pluto, when will the images get good? In this explainer, I tell you what images will be coming down from Pluto, when. Mark your calendars!

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Pluto Science, on the Surface

Posted by Alan Stern on 2015/02/27 02:39 CST | 5 comments

New Horizons' Principal Investigator Alan Stern gives an update on the mission's progress toward Pluto.

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New Horizons spots Nix and Hydra circling Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/18 11:43 CST | 4 comments

A series of images just sent to Earth from New Horizons clearly shows Pluto's moons Nix and Hydra orbiting the Pluto-Charon binary.

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New Horizons returns first images from mission's Pluto approach phase

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/02/04 03:14 CST | 10 comments

Here they are, the first images of Pluto from the approach phase of the New Horizons mission. Science has begun; we're on the home stretch!

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Talking to Pluto is hard! Why it takes so long to get data back from New Horizons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/01/30 09:53 CST | 13 comments

As I write this post, New Horizons is nearing the end of a weeklong optical navigation campaign. The last optical navigation images in the weeklong series will be taken tomorrow, but it will likely take two weeks or more for all the data to get to Earth. Two weeks! Why does it take so long?

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Year of the 'Dwarves': Ceres and Pluto Get Their Due

Posted by Paul Schenk on 2015/01/15 12:18 CST | 1 comments

This year we achieve the first exploration of these curious but fascinating objects. Paul Schenk explains what we may learn about them.

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Planetary exploration in 2015: The Year of the Dwarf Planet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/12/31 10:49 CST | 8 comments

Looking ahead to what we can expect from Earth's exploration of the rest of the solar system in 2015, there's an obvious theme: Dwarf planets.

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The New Horizons science mission to the Pluto-Charon system is about to begin

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/12/03 07:40 CST | 7 comments

It's been a long journey, but it's nearly over: New Horizons is just about ready to begin its science mission to Pluto, Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. I'll remind you of New Horizons' capabilities and simulate how Pluto will appear in optical navigation images.

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With New Horizons Ready to Wake Up, Scientists Prepare for Pluto Encounter

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/11/14 03:08 CST | 2 comments

When New Horizons wakes up for the final time on Dec. 6, scientists will spend six weeks preparing for the start of the spacecraft's Pluto encounter.

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Finally! New Horizons has a second target

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/10/15 01:02 CDT | 20 comments

What a huge relief: there is finally a place for New Horizons to visit beyond Pluto. A team of researchers led by John Spencer has discovered three possible targets, all in the Cold Classical part of the Kuiper belt. One is particularly easy to reach. New Horizons would fly past the 30-45-kilometer object in January 2019.

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Twinkling worlds in motion: New Horizons' first optical navigation images of Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/07 02:31 CDT | 15 comments

What's that in the distance? A binary star? Those are two little round worlds dancing in circles, whirling around a point in space located between the two of them. It's Pluto and Charon, clearly separated by New Horizons' camera.

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New Horizons to take new photos of Pluto and Charon, beginning optical navigation campaign

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/18 05:06 CDT | 7 comments

Technically, Pluto science observations don't begin for New Horizons until 2015, but the spacecraft will take a series of photos of Pluto and Charon from July 20 to 27 as it begins the first of four optical navigation campaigns.

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Hubble to the rescue! The last-ditch effort to discover a Kuiper belt target for New Horizons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/06/17 11:59 CDT | 5 comments

Will New Horizons have a mission after Pluto? Ground-based searches have failed to turn up anything that New Horizons can reach. Now Hubble is joining the search, but time is running out: a discovery must be made within the next two months.

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New Horizons: Updates From the April 2014 Science Team Meeting

Posted by Simon Porter on 2014/05/07 06:36 CDT | 1 comments

New Horizons team member Simon Porter reports on the state of the mission and Pluto system science from the recent science team meeting at the Applied Physics Laboratory.

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When will we know which is bigger, Pluto or Eris?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/04/30 12:11 CDT | 8 comments

We don't currently know whether Pluto is the biggest thing in the Kuiper belt or not. When will New Horizons give us the answer?

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Intro Astronomy 2014. Class 10: Trans Neptunian Objects including Pluto, KBOs, Comets

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/04/18 06:42 CDT

Explore the worlds beyond Neptune including Pluto, Kuiper Belt Objects and comets in this video of class 10 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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Postcards from Pluto

Posted by Amanda Zangari on 2014/03/12 03:26 CDT | 2 comments

Amanda Zangari shares what it's like to be a scientist on New Horizons, and explains some of the day-to-day workings of the mission behind the scenes.

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Predicting Pluto's moons and moondust

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/02/19 01:39 CST | 2 comments

Why didn't we discover Pluto's moons until more than a decade after Hubble launched? Mark Showalter helps me answer this question.

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New Horizons: Updates From the January 2014 Science Team Meeting, Part 2

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2014/01/24 01:16 CST | 3 comments

Ted Stryk reports on the status of the New Horizons mission from the mission's latest Science Team Meeting. Updates include the status of the Kuiper Belt target search and the use of ALMA to refine Pluto's ephemeris.

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