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Blog Archive


New Horizons spots Kerberos and Styx

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/05/12 05:56 CDT | 3 comments

New Horizons has now spotted every one of Pluto's satellites...all the ones we know about, that is.

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New Horizons sees surface features on Pluto, begins raw image release

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/29 08:06 CDT | 11 comments

Today the New Horizons team released a new animation of images taken on approach to Pluto. The animation clearly shows how Pluto wobbles around the Pluto-Charon barycenter. It also shows something more exciting to the scientists: variations in brightness across the surface of Pluto. They also began releasing raw images to the Internet.

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New views of three worlds: Ceres, Pluto, and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/16 03:17 CDT | 7 comments

New Horizons took its first color photo of Pluto and Charon, while Dawn obtained a 20-frame animation looking down on the north pole of a crescent Ceres.

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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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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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New camera improves a California near-Earth asteroid program

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/12/29 04:40 CST

A new camera is improving the efficiency of the Near-Earth Asteroid Program at the Center for Solar System Studies. This update from Shoemaker NEO Grant winner Bob Stephens reveals amazing recent progress using his 2013 Planetary Society grant.

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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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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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Will we find signs of tectonics on Pluto? And what would that mean?

Posted by Joseph O'Rourke on 2014/05/26 09:45 CDT | 1 comments

Joseph O’Rourke summarizes a recently submitted paper on tectonic activity on Pluto after the Charon-forming impact.

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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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This is the post where you can comment about the IAU planet definition

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/04/30 12:09 CDT | 25 comments

An attempt to corral the discussion of the IAU planet definition in one place on, so that we may be free to actually discuss Kuiper belt observations and scientific results on posts elsewhere on this site.

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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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More excitement in the outermost solar system: 2013 FY27, a new dwarf planet

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/04/02 10:49 CDT | 6 comments

On the heels of last weeks reports of a second Sedna and a ringed Centaur comes a third cool outer solar system discovery: A new, likely large member of the Kuiper belt. With an absolute magnitude of about 3.0, the new object currently known as 2013 FY27 is the tenth brightest object beyond Neptune .

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Hangout on Air: Why yesterday was a good day for Solar System Science

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/03/27 11:52 CDT

On Wednesday, March 26, two important discoveries in the outer solar system were announced: the discovery of the second confirmed member of the Inner Oort Cloud (2012 VP113) and the discovery of rings around the planetesimal Chariklo. In a Hangout on Air, a rag-tag group of planetary scientists and astronomers active on Twitter talked about the discoveries.

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A second Sedna! What does it mean?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/03/26 04:28 CDT | 10 comments

2012 VP113 is a new world that has been discovered on a Sedna-like orbit. What does that mean? It could imply the existence of a planet X, but doesn't prove it. It does suggest that a lot more Sednas are waiting to be discovered.

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2015 will be the Year of the Dwarf Planet, and you need to tell people about it!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/03/05 07:00 CST | 11 comments

I am very excited about 2015, more so than I have been about any year since I started working at The Planetary Society. Dawn will enter orbit at Ceres, and New Horizons, which will fly past Pluto and Charon. But if we want this kind of exploration to continue, I'm challenging you, dear readers, to tell the world why such non-planetary worlds are compelling places to go exploring.

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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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Intro Astronomy Class 1: Tour of the Solar System

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/02/11 05:53 CST | 1 comments

Take a tour of the Solar System in the video of class 1 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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