Pluto passed in front of a star on the evening of August 14. Mat Kaplan joined pro and amateur astronomers on a mountain to observe this rare event. It may reveal more about the dwarf planet’s tenuous atmosphere and other properties. Everyone hopes that Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will phone home when the waning worldwide Martian dust storm allows the robot to charge its batteries. Digital Editor Jason Davis tells us about the online mistake that had some fans believing it had already happened. And it will be “raining fire in the sky” when Bruce Betts drops another What’s Up segment.
Preparing for the Pluto occultation
At the Lake Henshaw Overlook preparing for the Pluto occultation with an Unistellar eVscope prototype and a large Celestron C14 telescope. From left to right: Martin Costa, Franck Marchis, Joana Oliveira Marques and Mat Kaplan.
Laptop used to control a telescope to view Pluto occultation
NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
Pluto in enhanced color
This photo combines a mosaic of four black-and-white, high-resolution LORRI images with lower-resolution color data from the Ralph MVIC instrument to create a portrait of Pluto's vari-colored terrains. MVIC takes photos through red, blue, and near-infrared filters, so the images enhances contrast among terrains with different surface compositions.
NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
Pluto’s majestic mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes
Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 3,500 meters high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 18,000 kilometers to Pluto; the scene is 1,250 kilometers wide.