Landing On Pluto


Last week NASA released a video compilation of New Horizons 2015 landing on Pluto.

What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto — starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon — and leading up to an eventual ride in for a “landing” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia.
To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.
After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The original black-and-white “landing” movie can be viewed at:
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/N…

Pluto’s Floating Hills


NASA’s New Horizons mission does it again – apparently Pluto has “floating hills”. February 4, 2016 NASA released images captured by New Horizons, 12 minutes before closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, at a distance of 16,000 kilometers.

Abundant hills measuring a few kilometers across, are thought to be “water ice”, floating on glaciers of dense nitrogen ice –

… likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planum’s western border. They are yet another example of Pluto’s fascinating and abundant geological activity.

Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean.

The hills are likely fragments of the rugged uplands that have broken away and are being carried by the nitrogen glaciers into Sputnik Planum. ‘Chains’ of the drifting hills are formed along the flow paths of the glaciers.

When the hills enter the cellular terrain of central Sputnik Planum, they become subject to the convective motions of the nitrogen ice, and are pushed to the edges of the cells, where the hills cluster in groups …

View larger. | Hills of water ice on Pluto ‘float’ in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean—another example of Pluto’s fascinating geological activity. Image via NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

View larger. | Hills of water ice on Pluto ‘float’ in a sea of frozen nitrogen. They’re thought to move slowly over time, somewhat like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean. For the scale here, notice the feature informally named Challenger Colles – honoring the crew of the lost Space Shuttle Challenger. It appears to be an especially large accumulation of these hills, measuring 37 by 22 miles (60 by 35 km). Image via NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

http://earthsky.org/space/pluto-has-mysterious-floating-hills

 

Pluto Ice Volcano


January 14, 2016 -NASA released spectacular images of possible ice volcanoes on the surface of Pluto. Captured on July 14, 2015 by New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), geologists are suggesting evidence of cryovolcanic activity. Pictured below is Wright Mons (named by New Horizons mission in honour of the Wright brothers ) Science is intrigued by absence of impact craters (only one crater in vicinity of Wright Mons ) indicating a surface/crust of recent formation.

Eruption is the single characteristic ice volcano shares with earthly volcanic perception. Rather than molten rock, cryo eruption spews a sludge of water, ice, nitrogen, ammonia and methane. Jeffrey Moore, leader of New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team believes proof of volcanic Pluto will unlock clues to geologic and atmospheric evolution.

“After all, nothing like this has been seen in the deep outer solar system”.- Jeffrey Moore

View larger. | This composite image of a possible ice volcano on Pluto includes pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a range of about 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers), showing features as small as 1,500 feet (450 meters) across. Sprinkled across the LORRI mosaic is enhanced color data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), from a range of 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) and at a resolution of about 2,100 feet (650 meters) per pixel. The entire scene is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

View larger. | This composite image of a possible ice volcano on Pluto includes pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a range of about 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers), showing features as small as 1,500 feet (450 meters) across. Sprinkled across the LORRI mosaic is enhanced color data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), from a range of 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) and at a resolution of about 2,100 feet (650 meters) per pixel. The entire scene is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Using New Horizons images of Pluto’s surface to make 3-D topographic maps, scientists discovered that two of Pluto’s mountains, informally named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, could be ice volcanoes. The color depicts changes in elevation, blue indicating lower terrain and brown showing higher elevation. Green terrains are at intermediate heights. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains: 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 Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across. View larger. | Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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 Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across. View larger. | Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://earthsky.org/space/pluto-might-have-ice-volcanoes

2015 – The Year of Pluto


Without a smidgen of hesitation, I name Pluto news-maker of 2015. Not since childhood Moon landings, has space exploration garnered the attention of New Horizons mission to Pluto. New Horizons doesn’t mind collective ignorance of her stoic journey. Ten years across 3 billion kilometers was never meant to be a matter of public scrutiny. July 14, 2015, New Horizons blushed with pride. Unprepared for accolades and global admiration, New Horizons mid-summer fly-by of “once a planet” Pluto snagged imaginations of the world. Overnight, Pluto and its moons rode a wave of awe and wonder. Mars might be a proper planet, but insignificant Pluto is glorious. Pluto captured our hearts in 2015 – nothing will ever be the same.

Pluto gets into the holiday spirit, decked out in red and green using a pair of Ralph/LEISA instrument scans

Pluto gets into the holiday spirit, decked out in red and green. This image was produced by the New Horizons composition team, using a pair of Ralph/LEISA instrument scans obtained at approximately 9:40 AM on July 14, from a mean range of 67,000 miles (108,000 kilometers). The resolution is about 7 kilometers per LEISA pixel. Three infrared wavelength ranges (2.28-2.23, 1.25-1.30 and 1.64-1.73 microns) were placed into the three color channels (red, green and blue, respectively) to create this false color Christmas portrait.

Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

A day on Pluto, July 2015

On approach in July 2015, the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured Pluto rotating over the course of a full “Pluto day.” The best available images of each side of Pluto taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Snakeskin terrain

In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

erosion and faulting has sculpted this portion of Pluto’s icy crust

In this highest-resolution image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains. Some mountain sides appear coated in dark material, while other sides are bright. Several sheer faces appear to show crustal layering, perhaps related to the layers seen in some of Pluto’s crater walls. Other materials appear crushed between the mountains, as if these great blocks of water ice, some standing as much as 1.5 miles high, were jostled back and forth. The mountains end abruptly at the shoreline of the informally named Sputnik Planum, where the soft, nitrogen-rich ices of the plain form a nearly level surface, broken only by the fine trace work of striking, cellular boundaries and the textured surface of the plain’s ices (which is possibly related to sunlight-driven ice sublimation). This view is about 50 miles wide. The top of the image is to Pluto’s northwest.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto

New Horizons scientists use enhanced color images to detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface. When close-up images are combined with color data from the Ralph instrument, it paints a new and surprising portrait of the dwarf planet. The “heart of the heart,” Sputnik Planum, is suggestive of a source region of ices. The two bluish-white “lobes” that extend to the southwest and northeast of the “heart” may represent exotic ices being transported away from Sputnik Planum.

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view. The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers).

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Blue Skies of Pluto


On July 14, 2015 NASA’s New Horizons probe captured Pluto’s night-side illuminated by sunlight. Ponder blue skies of Pluto – not so different from planet Earth.

Blue sky phenomenon stems from small atmospheric particles scattering sunlight. Earthly particles are nitrogen molecules, on Pluto sootish little particles called tholins do the job. From spaceweather.com –

“The term “tholin” was coined by Carl Sagan and Bishun Khare to describe organic substances they obtained in Miller-Urey experiments on gas mixtures akin to atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. On Pluto, tholins form high in the atmosphere where UV sunlight breaks apart nitrogen and methane molecules. The fragments re-combine to form complex macromolecules. These macromolecules continue to combine and grow until they become “tholins.”

Nightside of Earth – http://jesper-ullbing.deviantart.com/art/Nightside-Of-Earth-190372739

Tholins themselves aren’t blue, rather gray or red particles scattering sunlight. Science believes some of Pluto’s splotchy red surface comes from Tholin particles falling from the atmosphere.

Ponder Charon


On October 1, 2015 images from NASA’s New Horizons probe,  inserted Charon into our consciousness. The solar system gained dimension, suddenly Pluto’s neighborhood included Charon, a moon half the diameter of Pluto and largest moon relative to its planet in our solar system. Insignificant little Pluto was part of a galactic community.

New Horizons is to Pluto as Cassini is to Saturn – unassuming civil servants devoid of ulterior motive, diligent observers dedicated to truth without judgement or personal agendas. New Horizons introduced Pluto with unbiased observance, an irrefutable glimpse into cosmic reality. Part of this reality is Charon.

NASA's New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before the spacecraft's closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. Charon’s color palette is not as diverse as Pluto’s; most striking is the reddish north (top) polar region, informally named Mordor Macula. Charon is 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) across; this image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

NASA’s New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. Charon’s color palette is not as diverse as Pluto’s; most striking is the reddish north (top) polar region, informally named Mordor Macula. Charon is 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) across; this image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

http://earthsky.org/space/best-yet-images-of-plutos-moon-charon?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=e4c4236356-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-e4c4236356-393970565

This composite of enhanced color images of Pluto (lower right) and Charon (upper left), was taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passed through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. This image highlights the striking differences between Pluto and Charon. The color and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon’s polar red terrain and Pluto’s equatorial red terrain. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This composite of enhanced color images of Pluto (lower right) and Charon (upper left), was taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passed through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. This image highlights the striking differences between Pluto and Charon. The color and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon’s polar red terrain and Pluto’s equatorial red terrain. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto – Up Close and Personal


Ponder Pluto up close and personal. A 380 kilometer wide portrait, immortalized on July 14, 2015 by New Horizons at a distance of 18,000 kilometers.

Text below taken from earthsky. –

New Horizons snapped the picture looking back at Pluto about 15 minutes after its closest approach on July 14th. Backlit by the sun, Pluto’s rugged, icy mountains tower over a vast frozen plain extending to the horizon. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere.

The new pictures provide evidence for a remarkably Earth-like “hydrological” cycle on Pluto – but involving soft and exotic ices, including nitrogen, rather than water ice. There are signs of hazes, evaporation, precipitation, and flowing glaciers similar to the frozen streams on the margins of ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica.

New Pluto images wow scientists