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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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(Almost) everything you ever wanted to know about New Horizons and Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2005/12/20 05:56 CST

I was browsing around the Web today looking for material to improve the information we have on our site about Pluto, and discovered that the New Horizons mission has just posted their launch press kit.

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An official pronouncement may be coming about the "what is a planet?" debate

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2005/09/21 02:28 CDT

Since the discovery of 2003 UB313, larger than Pluto, there's been a lively debate going on in many places about what makes a planet. There's now an article in Nature talking about a proposal that would address the controversy

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Pluto: The Discovery of a Planet

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/18 11:00 CST

To mark the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the planet Pluto, The Planetary Society presents to its readers the remarkable story of the discovery.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 6: From Pluto to Sedna

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/17 11:00 CST

74 years after Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto as a faint dot on a pair of photographic plates, a modern group of astronomers made another remarkable discovery. On March 15, 2004, Michael Brown of Caltech, Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory, and David Rabinowitz of Yale announced the discovery of Sedna – the furthest object ever detected in the Solar System.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 5: The Aftermath

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/16 11:00 CST

The discovery of Planet X was announced to the world on March 13, 1930, which marked the anniversary of William Herschel’s discovery of Uranus in 1781 as well as Percival Lowell’s birthday. The observatory’s communiqué emphasized that the discovery was no coincidence, but the vindication of Lowell’s predictions made years before.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 4: Clyde's Search

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/15 11:00 CST

Since his teenage years Clyde Tombaugh had been an avid amateur astronomer and a gifted telescope builder. Based on instructions contained in an article from a boy’s Sunday school paper, he built a series of telescopes of increasing power and quality on the family farm.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 3: Planet X

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/14 11:00 CST

The discovery of Neptune accounted for nearly all the unexplained motions of the outer planets of the Solar System. Nevertheless, several astronomers insisted that some unexplained residual motions remained, pointing to the presence of a ninth planet beyond the orbit of Neptune.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 2: Out of the Six-Planet World

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/13 11:00 CST

Since humans first set their eyes to the stars, they noticed that a few of these bright objects behaved differently from the others. Whereas all the stars moved together, revolving around the Earth once every 24 hours, five appeared to move within the firmament among the other stars. Accordingly, they were named “planets,” meaning “wanderers” in Greek.

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