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DPS 2010: Pluto and Charon opposition surges, Nix and Hydra masses, Pluto and Eris compositions

Emily Lakdawalla • October 25, 2010

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.

Hubble turns 20

Emily Lakdawalla • April 23, 2010

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. It's hard to believe it's been going strong for so many years.

Programming Note: The Pluto Files

Emily Lakdawalla • March 02, 2010

This is just a brief note to advertise this evening's edition of NOVA on public television here in the U.S. The show is "The Pluto Files" and is hosted by former Planetary Society president Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

New maps of Pluto show pretty amazing amounts of surface change

Emily Lakdawalla • February 04, 2010

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.

Report #1 from the New Horizons Science Team Meeting

Ted Stryk • January 19, 2010

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.

Ever Plan Ahead? How About Six Years Ahead?

Alan Stern • May 19, 2009

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.

Frame a Pluto portrait

Emily Lakdawalla • April 07, 2008

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.

Yet another active world: Charon

Emily Lakdawalla • July 18, 2007

I've just posted a news story on a recently published paper that suggests that Pluto's moon Charon may have active ice volcanoes.

Bedtime for New Horizons

Emily Lakdawalla • June 28, 2007

According to the mission website, the New Horizons spacecraft has drifted off to sleep, entering its "hibernation" mode for the first time.

New Horizons spots Pluto!

Emily Lakdawalla • November 29, 2006

Yesterday the New Horizons team released a flicker animation showing the spacecraft's first sight of Pluto, using the LORRI long-range imaging instrument.

Suggestions for names of Pluto's moons

Emily Lakdawalla • February 21, 2006

I received quite a number of emails containing suggested names for Pluto's moons -- thanks! I just sent all the suggestions to Alan Stern; here they are for everybody's enjoyment.

Speaking of Pluto...

Emily Lakdawalla • February 20, 2006

I just posted today's installment of Planetary Radio, in which Mat Kaplan gets an update on New Horizons from Principal Investigator Alan Stern-- check it out!

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

Emily Lakdawalla • September 21, 2005

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

Pluto: The Discovery of a Planet

Amir Alexander • February 18, 2005

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.

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

Amir Alexander • February 17, 2005

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.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 5: The Aftermath

Amir Alexander • February 16, 2005

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.

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

Amir Alexander • February 15, 2005

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.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 3: Planet X

Amir Alexander • February 14, 2005

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.

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

Amir Alexander • February 13, 2005

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.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 1: The Blinking Image

Amir Alexander • February 12, 2005

February 18, 1930, was a cloudy day at the Lowell Observatory, on top of Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. 22 year old Clyde Tombaugh was hard at work, peering through the lens of an ancient-looking brass-colored device. The instrument, known as a “blink comparator,” mounted two large photographic plates.

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