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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/07/16 02:55 CDT | 9 comments

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.

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Where are the big Kuiper belt objects?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/02/16 05:35 CST | 8 comments

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.

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Visiting the San Diego SpaceUp Unconference

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2012/02/14 08:38 CST

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.

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Brief notes from Day 2 of the DPS-EPSC meeting

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!

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Scale solar system presentation slide, a provisional version for you to review

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/15 02:18 CDT

I'm preparing a talk for the Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show here in Pasadena on Sunday afternoon at 1:45. I have spent the morning putting together a slide that I have long wanted to have for presentations.

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New Horizons Day 2: Liquids on Pluto's surface?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/13 01:27 CDT

Jeff Moore's presentation was cool because of the discussion it stimulated. He considered what exogenic processes might be operating on Pluto's surface. What's an exogenic process? It's something that modifies the shape of the surface from the outside, and doesn't require the body to be geologically active inside.

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New Horizons Day 2: Tectonic features on icy worlds

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/09/09 01:05 CDT

The second day of the New Horizons Workshop on Icy Surface Processes was about geology and geophysics. This long post just covers the first talk of that day.

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

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.

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A fourth moon for Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/07/20 01:38 CDT | 2 comments

That's right: Hubble observations have yielded the discovery of a third small body orbiting Pluto and Charon.

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South of the Border

Posted by Meg Schwamb on 2011/05/25 08:30 CDT

The last decade has seen an explosion in our understanding of the solar system with the discovery of the largest Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) of comparable size to Pluto.

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The scale of our solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/05/02 11:26 CDT

Space.com has taken advantage of the infinitely scrollable nature of Web pages to produce a really cool infographic on the scales of orbital distances in the solar system.

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Pluto's atmosphere changes really fast!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/04/21 10:27 CDT

Pluto's atmosphere has been a subject of fascination for planetary astronomers since -- well, since astronomers first discovered that it had an atmosphere in the early '90s. The interest is partly because it's fascinating that such a distant and cold world is capable of supporting an atmosphere, and partly because the presence of the atmosphere confounds all attempts to measure Pluto's size precisely.

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A Planetary Society Trifecta

Posted by Charlene Anderson on 2011/02/25 03:25 CST

A Planetary Society trifecta -- that's what Neil Tyson calls this episode of his StarTalk radio show broadcast this week. His guests include the Society's Vice President, Heidi Hammel, and its Executive Director, Bill Nye, (along with the Society's friend, Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers).

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Eris might be smaller than Pluto after all (but it's still more massive)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/11/08 04:48 CST

Several astronomers pointed their telescope at Eris to watch it pass in front of a background star. Occultations permit precise measurement of the diameters of distant, faint objects, and it turned out that Eris was much smaller than previously thought, so much so that its diameter may turn out to be the same as, or even smaller than, Pluto's.

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DPS 2010: Pluto and Charon opposition surges, Nix and Hydra masses, Pluto and Eris compositions

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/10/25 11:18 CDT

An awful lot of the talks in the Pluto session on Tuesday morning, October 5, at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting spent more time focusing on how bad weather conditions were during the astronomers' attempts to view Pluto as it occulted background stars than they did on any measurements or science that came out from the data.

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New maps of Pluto show pretty amazing amounts of surface change

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/04 02:17 CST

I just posted my writeup of today's press briefing on a new map of Pluto produced from Hubble images. The main conclusion was that Pluto has shown an astonishing amount of changes across its surface between 1994 and 2002 -- more, in fact, than any other solid surface in the solar system.

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Ted Stryk: Report from New Horizons science team meeting

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2010/01/19 07:55 CST

The New Horizons science team is meeting this week. Ted Stryk was invited to attend the meeting, and he sent the following notes from the first day.

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Ever Plan Ahead? How About Six Years Ahead?

Posted by Alan Stern on 2009/05/19 07:05 CDT

Despite still being more than six years and just over 18 Astronomical Units from the Pluto system, the project team for New Horizons is conducting the second and final portion of our Pluto Encounter Preliminary Design Review (EPDR) tomorrow and the next day.

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Frame a Pluto portrait

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2008/04/07 01:27 CDT

As New Horizons continues its journey (it's now approaching the orbital distance of Saturn, though it's very far from that planet in space), the mission is taking advantage of the recent experience with the Jupiter flyby to plan out the science operations for the Pluto-Charon encounter.

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Yet another active world: Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2007/07/18 05:14 CDT

I've just posted a news story on a recently published paper that suggests that Pluto's moon Charon may have active ice volcanoes.

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