This is the first observation of Pluto’s atmosphere at altitudes higher than 170 miles above the surface (270 kilometers). This allowed it to study the chemical makeup of its atmosphere and image landscapes on its surface in exquisite detail.
Mission scientists hope the New Horizons project is far from finished, and that Nasa will grant it an extension to take a look at one of two small Kuiper belt objects close to its trajectory. It’s also the biggest moon in relation to the size of its home world in the Solar System.
From helping to guide the Curiosity rover on the path to Mars to last week’s unprecedented flyby of the distant dwarf planet Pluto, it’s easy to say Eureka native Paul Thompson knows his way around the solar system.
The New Horizons mission to Pluto cost an estimated $700 million. Even Stephen Colbert did.
It’s a planet… it’s not a planet…it’s a planet again.
It’s the plains of Pluto (given the name Tombaugh Regio for discoverer Clyde Tombaugh) that have drawn the most attention. It clearly orbited the Sun, albeit at a distance of about 5.9 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles), so, naturally, it was labeled a planet.
Still, the early results show that frozen Pluto, where surface temperatures reach 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 240 Celsius), is challenging theories about how icy bodies can generate heat to reshape their surface features.
And the Kupier belt is where New Horizons space probe is headed next to discover and unveil the secrets behind the still unknown parts and areas of the solar system.
The team still hasn’t determined the precise shape of Pluto’s newly discovered tail.
And yet from our own nondescript planet, we launched a grand piano-sized spaceship from Earth and it went just where we wanted it to go. For years, scientists thought its wobbling was due to gravitational instability. However, 14-year old E. Dawn Redd (daughter of Nola Redd – a contributor at Space.com) witnessed a different kind of battle as she grew up – Pluto’s status as a planet.
“With the flyby in the rearview mirror, a decade-long journey to Pluto is over -but, the science payoff is only beginning”, said Jim Green, director of Planetary Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. However that raises the question: should all objects that revolve around the sun and has a certain amount of mass be categorized as a “planet”? But according to these first photos, cold with ice, not stone. Hence, it does not deserve being called a planet. It can only get stronger when NASA start publishing more breathtakingly-beautiful photos of the celestial minnow.
The vote, taken in 2006 involving just 424 members from the 10,000-strong IAU – global Astronomical Union, was not unanimous: far from it; it was 276 /148. We’d never encountered a planetary atmosphere like Pluto’s: gases escaping at supersonic speeds from such a frigid planet are a completely new situation. In fact, the demotion that people are still talking about wasn’t so much a demotion at is was setting the record straight. For most of us, Pluto will always be a planet. I think the most important thing is that scientists keep looking and learning about Pluto, and all the other bodies in the solar system.