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

Emily Lakdawalla • April 30, 2014

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?

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

Emily Lakdawalla • April 30, 2014

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

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

Bruce Betts • April 18, 2014

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.

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

Emily Lakdawalla • April 02, 2014

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 .

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

Emily Lakdawalla • March 27, 2014

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.

A second Sedna! What does it mean?

Emily Lakdawalla • March 26, 2014

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.

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

Emily Lakdawalla • March 05, 2014

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.

Predicting Pluto's moons and moondust

Emily Lakdawalla • February 19, 2014

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

Intro Astronomy Class 1: Tour of the Solar System

Bruce Betts • February 11, 2014

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

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

Ted Stryk • January 23, 2014

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

Snow balls in space

Mike Brown • December 29, 2013

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.

Pluto's atmosphere does not collapse

Emily Lakdawalla • September 06, 2013

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."

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

Emily Lakdawalla • August 02, 2013

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

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

Emily Lakdawalla • July 30, 2013

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.

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

Emily Lakdawalla • July 24, 2013

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

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

Emily Lakdawalla • July 15, 2013

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.

New Horizons: Encounter Planning Accelerates

Alan Stern • May 17, 2013

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.

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

Emily Lakdawalla • May 02, 2013

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

2011 HM102: A new companion for Neptune

Alex Parker • April 30, 2013

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.

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

Emily Lakdawalla • February 18, 2013

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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