Planets

NASA’s New Horizons, IAU Set Pluto Naming Themes

n 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft delivered the first close-up views of Pluto and its five moons – amazing images of distant and surprisingly complex worlds, showing a vast nitrogen glacier as well as ice mountains, canyons, cliffs, craters and more. The IAU’s action clears the way for the mission team to propose formal names Read More

Planets

New Horizons Refines Course for Next Flyby

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft conducting a flyby study of its next target – 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object orbiting a billion miles beyond Pluto – on Jan. 1, 2019. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI/Steve Gribben Telemetry confirming that the engine burn went as planned reached the New Horizons mission operations center at the Johns Read More

Planets

A Colorful ‘Landing’ on Pluto

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 Read More

Planets

Pluto ‘Paints’ its Largest Moon Red

In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they’d never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn’t wait to get the story behind it. Over the past year, after Read More

Planets

Pluto’s Methane Snowcaps on the Edge of Darkness

The area shown above is south of Pluto’s dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum or Sputnik Planitia, as the mission team recently redesignated the area to more accurately reflect the low elevation of the plains. North is at the top; in the Read More

Planets

Pluto’s Haze Varies in Brightness

Mission scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure. The brightness variations may be due to buoyancy waves – what atmospheric scientists also call gravity waves – which are typically launched by the flow Read More

Planets

Pluto’s ‘Hulk-like’ Moon Charon: A Possible Ancient Ocean?

Pluto’s largest moon may have gotten too big for its own skin. Images from NASA’s New Horizons mission suggest that Pluto’s moon Charon once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing outward and causing the moon’s surface to stretch and fracture on a massive scale. The side of Pluto’s largest Read More

Planets

Possible Ice Volcano on Pluto Has the ‘Wright Stuff’

Scientists with NASA’s New Horizons mission have assembled this highest-resolution color view of one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015. This feature, known as Wright Mons, was informally named by the New Horizons team in honor of the Wright brothers.  At about 90 Read More

Planets

‘X’ Marks a Curious Corner on Pluto’s Icy Plains

“X” marks the spot of some intriguing surface activity in the latest picture of Pluto returned from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. Transmitted to Earth on Dec. 24, this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) extends New Horizons’ highest-resolution views of Pluto to the very center of Sputnik Planum, the informally named icy plain Read More

Planets

New Horizons Returns First of the Best Images of Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto it obtained during its July flyby – and the best close-ups of Pluto that humans may see for decades. Each week the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft transmits data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through Read More