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Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart (The New York Times)

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  • Get Lost in Space! (9/14/2018) - Way back in August, in anticipation of the start of a new school year, I set out to update the pages on this site related to space. Those pages tend to be popular among the teachers and students who use Cosma, and I happen to enjoy updating them, too. It sounded like a short, fun … Continue reading Get Lost in Space!

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Solar System Exploration: Pluto (NASA)
New Horizons: Exploring Pluto and Beyond (Elizabeth Howell, Space.com)
New Horizons: NASA’s Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission (Official Site, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)
New Horizons Mission (NASA)

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Pluto : a dwarf planet occupying an orbit that crosses the orbit of Neptune — in 2006 the International Astronomical Union defined planet in such a way as to exclude Pluto, reclassifying it instead as a dwarf planet. Although discussion of the matter continues, the change has been widely accepted — Webster

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Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered.

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun. After 1992, its planethood was questioned following the discovery of several objects of similar size in the Kuiper belt. In 2005, Eris, which is 27% more massive than Pluto, was discovered. This led the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the term “planet” formally in 2006, during their 26th General Assembly. That definition excluded Pluto and reclassified it as a dwarf planet.

Pluto is the largest and second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth-largest and tenth-most-massive known object directly orbiting the Sun. It is the largest known trans-Neptunian object by volume but is less massive than Eris, a dwarf planet in the scattered disc. Like other Kuiper belt objects, Pluto is primarily made of ice and rock and is relatively small—about one-sixth the mass of the Moon and one-third its volume. It has a moderately eccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 30 to 49 astronomical units or AU (4.4–7.4 billion km) from the Sun. This means that Pluto periodically comes closer to the Sun than Neptune, but a stable orbital resonance with Neptune prevents them from colliding.

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body. The IAU has not formalized a definition for binary dwarf planets, and Charon is officially classified as a moon of Pluto. — Wikipedia

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New Horizons: Exploring Pluto and Beyond (Elizabeth Howell, Space.com)
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Pluto News -- ScienceDaily Dwarf Planet Pluto News. See images and read science articles on Pluto, Eris and other Kuiper Belt objects.

  • Evidence supports 'hot start' scenario and early...
    on June 22, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    A new study suggests that Pluto and other large Kuiper belt objects started out with liquid oceans which have been slowly freezing over time.

  • Pluto's icy heart makes winds blow
    on February 4, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    A 'beating heart' of frozen nitrogen controls Pluto's winds and may give rise to features on its surface, according to a new study.

  • Solar wind slows farther away from the Sun
    on December 2, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    Measurements taken by the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft are providing important new insights from some of the farthest reaches of space ever explored. Astronomers now show how the solar wind -- the supersonic stream of charged particles blown out by the Sun -- evolves at increasing distances from the Sun.

  • ESO telescope reveals what could be the smallest...
    on October 28, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Astronomers using ESO's SPHERE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) have revealed that the asteroid Hygiea could be classified as a dwarf planet. The object is the fourth largest in the asteroid belt after Ceres, Vesta and Pallas. For the first time, astronomers have observed Hygiea in sufficiently high resolution to study its surface and determine its shape and size. They found that Hygiea is spherical, potentially taking the crown from Ceres as the smallest dwarf planet in the solar […]

  • How icy outer solar system satellites may have...
    on June 25, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune, there are a multitude of icy and rocky small bodies, smaller than planets but larger than comets. These likely formed at the same time as the Solar System, and understanding their origin could provide important clues as to how the entire Solar System originated. Using sophisticated computer simulations and observations of TNOs, astronomers have shown how these so-called trans-Neptunian Objects (or TNOs) may have formed.


Phys.org - latest science and technology news stories Phys.org internet news portal provides the latest news on science including: Physics, Nanotechnology, Life Sciences, Space Science, Earth Science, Environment, Health and Medicine.

  • Uranian moons in new light
    on September 14, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    More than 230 years ago astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus and two of its moons. Using the Herschel Space Observatory, a group of astronomers led by Örs H. Detre of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy now has succeeded in determining physical properties of the five main moons of Uranus. The measured infrared radiation, which is generated by the Sun heating their surfaces, suggests that these moons resemble dwarf planets like Pluto. The team developed a new analysis […]

  • Follow NASA's Perseverance rover in real time on...
    on August 23, 2020 at 9:23 am

    The last time we saw NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission was on July 30, 2020, as it disappeared into the black of deep space on a trajectory for Mars. But with NASA's Eyes on the Solar System, you can follow in real time as humanity's most sophisticated rover—and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter traveling with it—treks millions of miles over the next six months to Jezero Crater.

  • Huge ring-like structure on Ganymede's surface...
    on August 7, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Researchers from Kobe University and the National Institute of Technology, Oshima College have conducted a detailed reanalysis of image data from Voyager 1, 2 and Galileo spacecraft in order to investigate the orientation and distribution of the ancient tectonic troughs found on Jupiter's moon Ganymede. They discovered that these troughs are concentrically distributed across almost the entire surface of the satellite. This global distribution indicates that these troughs may be actually part of […]

  • Explaining glaciers of solid methane and nitrogen...
    on August 6, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    Planetary scientist Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely and associates have reported for the first time how solid methane and nitrogen expand in response to temperature changes and resolved an historic ambiguity relating to the structure of nitrogen.

  • Subaru Telescope and New Horizons explore the...
    on July 15, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Collaborative observations with NASA's New Horizons mission have been ongoing at the Subaru Telescope since May 2020. Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC), the wide field camera mounted on the prime focus of the Subaru Telescope, is used for the observations to search for target candidates for New Horizons' next observations. Astronomers from Japan are participating in the observation team together with ones from the New Horizons mission.


Pluto New Horizons News and images from the Pluto New Horizons team

  • The PI’s Perspective: On Final Approach to...
    by Bill Keeter on December 20, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and on final approach to explore Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, New Horizons will swoop three times closer to “Ultima” than we flew past Pluto! On Saturday, Dec. 15, the New Horizons hazard watch team concluded its work, having found …

  • The PI’s Perspective: Share the News—The...
    by ptalbert on November 27, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now beginning its final approach to explore Ultima Thule — our first Kuiper Belt object (KBO) flyby target — about a billion miles beyond Pluto. And on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, New Horizons will swoop three times closer to “Ultima” than we flew past …

  • The PI’s Perspective: Why Didn’t Voyager...
    by ptalbert on February 28, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    New Horizons is in good health and cruising closer each day to our next encounter, an end-of-the-year flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 (or “MU69” for short). Currently, the spacecraft is hibernating while the mission team plans the MU69 flyby. During hibernation, three of the instruments on New Horizons—SWAP, PEPSSI and SDC—collect …

  • The PI’s Perspective: Wrapping up 2017 En Route...
    by ptalbert on December 6, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    New Horizons is in good health and cruising closer each day to its next encounter: a flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 (or “MU69” for short). If you follow our mission, you likely know that flyby will occur on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 2019, which is just barely over …

  • No Sleeping Back on Earth!
    by ptalbert on April 28, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Today’s blog is from Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission. Three weeks ago we put our New Horizons spacecraft into hibernation mode, the first time we’d done that since late 2014, before the Pluto flyby. By coincidence, that same day – April 7—was also the …


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New Horizons News Releases Feed New Horizons News Center Archives

  • Pluto Crater Named for New Horizons Pathfinder...
    by Mike.Buckley@jhuapl.edu (M. Buckley) on August 27, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    In the early 2000s, as proposal manager and then project manager, Tom Coughlin shepherded the fledging New Horizons mission from early design through flight confirmation. Two decades later, the mission team is honoring Coughlin with a tribute on Pluto, the world New Horizons was built to explore.

  • The Pluto Perspective: No Sleep Until After the...
    by Mike.Buckley@jhuapl.edu (M. Buckley) on July 17, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    For members of NASA's New Horizons team, the Pluto flyby on July 14, 2015, was the culmination of years of dreams, plans, discovery, hard work and perseverance. To mark the historic flyby's fifth anniversary, several team members share their favorite memories of this monumental and unforgettable space exploration achievement.

  • Five Years after New Horizons' Historic Flyby,...
    by Mike.Buckley@jhuapl.edu (M. Buckley) on July 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Five years ago today, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made history. After a voyage of nearly 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, the intrepid piano-sized probe flew within 7,800 miles of Pluto. Here are 10 of the coolest, weirdest and most unexpected findings about the Pluto system that scientists have learned since 2015, thanks to data from New Horizons.

  • The PI's Perspective: July 2015 - When the Solar...
    by Mike.Buckley@jhuapl.edu (M. Buckley) on July 14, 2020 at 5:01 am

    As New Horizons cruises deeper into the Kuiper Belt, Principal Investigator Alan Stern looks back on the spacecraft's historic flight through the Pluto system – revealing worlds more interesting and amazing than anyone could have predicted.

  • The Pluto Perspective: An Unforgettable Flyby
    by Mike.Buckley@jhuapl.edu (M. Buckley) on June 13, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    For members of NASA's New Horizons team, the Pluto flyby on July 14, 2015, was the culmination of years of dreams, plans, discovery, hard work and perseverance. To mark the historic flyby's fifth anniversary, several team members share their favorite memories of this monumental and unforgettable space exploration achievement.