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Blog Archive

 

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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New Horizons: Updates From the Science Team Meeting, Part 1

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2014/01/23 06:15 CST | 1 comments

Ted Stryk reports on the status of the New Horizons mission from the mission's latest Science Team Meeting.

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Snow balls in space

Posted by Mike Brown on 2013/12/29 02:45 CST | 4 comments

I don’t get much snow in southern California, but I do spend a lot of my time thinking about college snowball experiences and about the snowball fights that have made the objects of the outer solar system.

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Pluto's atmosphere does not collapse

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/09/06 11:07 CDT | 2 comments

Just four months ago I posted about a paper recently published by Leslie Young and coauthors that described three possible scenarios for Pluto's atmosphere. Yesterday, Cathy Olkin, Leslie Young, and coauthors posted a preprint on arXiv that says that only one of those scenarios can be true. And it's a surprising one. The title of their paper says it all: "Pluto's atmosphere does not collapse."

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/08/02 08:00 CDT | 5 comments

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

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Pluto on the Eve of Exploration by New Horizons: A problem of cartography

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/07/30 05:44 CDT | 6 comments

Last Thursday at the Pluto Science Conference there was a surprising and interesting talk by Amanda Zangari, who pointed out a serious problem with Pluto cartography.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/07/24 09:04 CDT | 5 comments

My roundup from notes on the day's presentations on dust in the Pluto system and the surfaces and interiors of Pluto and Charon.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/07/15 01:37 CDT | 5 comments

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.

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New Horizons: Encounter Planning Accelerates

Posted by Alan Stern on 2013/05/17 10:18 CDT | 4 comments

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/05/02 03:42 CDT | 5 comments

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

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2011 HM102: A new companion for Neptune

Posted by Alex Parker on 2013/04/30 04:20 CDT | 2 comments

This month my latest paper made it to print in the Astronomical Journal. It's a short piece that describes a serendipitous discovery that my collaborators and I made while searching for a distant Kuiper Belt Object for the New Horizons spacecraft to visit after its 2015 Pluto flyby.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/18 04:22 CST | 8 comments

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.

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

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/14 12:37 CST | 19 comments

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.

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New Contest: Name the Moons of Pluto!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/02/11 11:41 CST | 15 comments

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.

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DPS 2012: Double occultation by Pluto and Charon

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2012/10/26 03:12 CDT | 5 comments

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.

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Citizen "Ice Hunters" help find a Neptune Trojan target for New Horizons

Posted by Alex Parker on 2012/10/09 12:15 CDT | 1 comments

2011 HM102 is an L5 Neptune Trojan, trailing Neptune by approximately 60 degrees. This object was discovered in the search for a New Horizons post-Pluto encounter object in the Kuiper Belt.

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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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