Professor of Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University
Back to the annual meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences this week, where Mat Kaplan visited with experts on worlds of ice including Titan and Pluto, with a side trip to the dunes of Iran. Emily Lakdawalla checks in from a planning session for the next camera that will land on Mars. Bill Nye considers the outlook for space exploration in the Trump administration. Our What’s Up segment travels to a moon of Saturn to find characters from the Lord of the Rings.
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.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / Italian Space Agency (ASI) / USGS
‘Lakes’ on Saturn's moon Titan
Radar images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal many lakes on Titan's surface, some filled with liquid, and some appearing as empty depressions. The data were obtained by Cassini's radar instrument from 2004 to 2013. For more information, click here.