Updating Pluto

Curious – ponder how quickly New Horizons Pluto mission evaporated from popular culture. Media hypes cosmic milestones for a day or two, the moment they stop trending, space exploration might try booking a booth at Comic Con. I wonder how many people could differentiate between New Horizons, Rosetta, Ceres…..

New Horizons left Cape Canaveral in January of 2006 – primary destination Pluto, with asteroid hat tips and cursory nod to Jupiter along the way. On July 14, 2015 New Horizons completed its first “fly-by” of Pluto – Pluto’s wonky orbit aside, an average of 6.09 billion kilometers from earth. Within days New Horizons tickled our fancies with thought provoking images of once a planet Pluto.

This week NASA released New Horizon’s finest work, detailed jaw droppers worthy of a last hurrah. Turns out New Horizons is one plucky little probe, delighting mission control with “can do” tenacity (and enough remaining fuel) to forge far beyond wildest dreams. “Nice to meet your acquaintance Pluto, I must be on my way, 2014 MU69 awaits”.

New Horizon’s fuel bonanza sent science to the Hubble Space Telescope. A billion miles beyond Pluto, Hubble identified “icy object” 2014 MU69 as a viable destination. This week NASA announced intent to reach it by 2019 – New Horizons is packing her bags while NASA waits for final funding approval.

Come on now, do the right thing. What’s the harm in another billion miles? Surely New Horizons attitude and lure of the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune count for something.(link to Kuiper Belt below)

http://www2.ess.ucla.edu/~jewitt/kb.html

While we wait for confirmation – New Horizons latest images of Pluto –

View larger. | Remember the beautiful image of the heart-shaped feature on Pluto? Here it is in closer detail. This image covers an area 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) across. Image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

View larger. | Remember the beautiful image of the heart-shaped feature on Pluto? Here it is in closer detail. This image covers an area 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) across. Scientists call the heart-shaped feature Tombaugh Regio; it’s a smooth, icy plain. Image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Some regions on Pluto are much darker than others. Scientists aren't sure why.

View larger. | Some regions on Pluto are much darker than others. Scientists aren’t sure why. Image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Linked below – best picture gallery of New Horizons encounter with Pluto –

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Science-Photos/view.php?gallery_id=2

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5 thoughts on “Updating Pluto

  1. In all fairness to popular culture, finding some place in a citizen’s daily life where Pluto has immediate relevance is not the easiest thing to do. And I think we both know that on a macro scale contemporary citizens don’t seem to be too keen on deep thought. They’re more interested in whether Kim Kardashian has regular bowel movements and the field goal attempts of some obscure football team.

    I mean, come on, what possible relevance can science have in our everyday life?

    😛😨😱

  2. It is a bit sad that we all become somewhat blase.

    Yet who could forget July 20th 1969? A great many people as it turns out!
    But thanks to the unflagging enthusiasm of people like you, Notes, you are able to reignite the Wow factor.

    • Oh man, now you have me pondering “wow”! – August 15, 1977 SETI volunteer Jerry Ehman monitored radio signals at Big Ear radio observatory in Ohio. For 72 inexplicable seconds a powerful radio signal originating from constellation Sagittarius, spiked Big Ear’s equipment off the charts. Perplexed Jerry circled the anomaly and penciled “wow”. To this day it remains the only unexplained radio signal from space.WOW! 🙂

  3. I still feel a twinge when I read about Philea waking up and giving a squeek… 🙂

    We are living in a world of hyperfast media with nanoscopic attention spans. Since we also live in a world of accelarting science and technology, there is always something to hold our wonder. What is the next awesome tweet to blow us away for a second..?

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