Join Date: May 2004
Location: that interweb thing
4 days until Plutopalooza... <--click for Toolkit: downloads, vids, PDFs, etc
The Wait is almost over ...
Well... after that extra bit of anxiety as an anomaly kicked the spacecraft into safe mode and onto it's B side redundant computer on July 4th...
NASA’s New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto.July 9th Press Briefing (15:31 min)
The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.
Latest LORRI pics show Pluto has heart
This image of Pluto from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was received on July 8, and has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument.
After a more than nine-year, three-billion-mile journey to Pluto, it’s show time for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, as the flyby sequence of science observations is officially underway.
In the early morning hours of July 8, mission scientists received this new view of Pluto—the most detailed yet returned by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons. The image was taken on July 7, when the spacecraft was just under 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) from Pluto, and is the first to be received since the July 4 anomaly that sent the spacecraft into safe mode.
This view is centered roughly on the area that will be seen close-up during New Horizons’ July 14 closest approach. This side of Pluto is dominated by three broad regions of varying brightness. Most prominent are an elongated dark feature at the equator, informally known as “the whale,” and a large heart-shaped bright area measuring some 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) across on the right. Above those features is a polar region that is intermediate in brightness.
“The next time we see this part of Pluto at closest approach, a portion of this region will be imaged at about 500 times better resolution than we see today,” said Jeff Moore, Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team Leader of NASA’s Ames Research Center. “It will be incredible!”
The "unrolled" map for those who want to texture their own 3D version is here
This map of Pluto, made from images taken by the LORRI instrument aboard New Horizons, shows a wide array of bright and dark markings of varying sizes and shapes. Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that all of the darkest material on the surface lies along Pluto’s equator. The color version was created from lower-resolution color data from the spacecraft’s Ralph instrument.
This is the latest map of Pluto created from images taken from June 27 to July 3 by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons, combined with lower-resolution color data from the spacecraft’s Ralph instrument. The center of the map corresponds to the side of Pluto that will be seen close-up during New Horizons’ July 14 flyby.
This map gives mission scientists an important tool to decipher the complex and intriguing pattern of bright and dark markings on Pluto’s surface. Features from all sides of Pluto can now be seen at a glance and from a consistent perspective, making it much easier to compare their shapes and sizes.
The elongated dark area informally known as “the whale,” along the equator on the left side of the map, is one of the darkest regions visible to New Horizons. It measures some 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) in length.
Directly to the right of the whale’s “head” is the brightest region visible on the planet, which is roughly 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. This may be a region where relatively fresh deposits of frost—perhaps including frozen methane, nitrogen and/or carbon monoxide—form a bright coating.
Continuing to the right, along the equator, we see the four mysterious dark spots that have so intrigued the world, each of which is hundreds of miles across. Meanwhile, the whale’s “tail,” at the left end of the dark feature, cradles a bright donut-shaped feature about 200 miles (350 kilometers) across. At first glance it resembles circular features seen elsewhere in the solar system, from impact craters to volcanoes. But scientists are holding off on making any interpretation of this and other features on Pluto until more detailed images are in hand.
Of course, higher-resolution images in the days to come will allow mission scientists to make more accurate maps, but this map is a tantalizing preview.
“We’re at the ‘man in the moon’ stage of viewing Pluto,” said John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, deputy leader of the Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team. “It’s easy to imagine you’re seeing familiar shapes in this bizarre collection of light and dark features. However, it’s too early to know what these features really are.”
Readers who use Google Earth can download a KMZ version of the map here:
Latest shots of Pluto and Charon
New Horizons was about 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Pluto and Charon when it snapped this portrait late on July 8, 2015.
This is the same image of Pluto and Charon from July 8, 2015; color information obtained earlier in the mission from the Ralph instrument has been added.
Image of Pluto only from the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), July 8, 2015. Most of the bright features around Pluto’s edge are a result of image processing, but the bright sliver below the dark “whale,” which is also visible in unprocessed images, is real.
Image of Charon only from the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), July 8, 2015.
They’re a fascinating pair: Two icy worlds, spinning around their common center of gravity like a pair of figure skaters clasping hands. Scientists believe they were shaped by a cosmic collision billions of years ago, and yet, in many ways, they seem more like strangers than siblings.
A high-contrast array of bright and dark features covers Pluto’s surface, while on Charon, only a dark polar region interrupts a generally more uniform light gray terrain. The reddish materials that color Pluto are absent on Charon. Pluto has a significant atmosphere; Charon does not. On Pluto, exotic ices like frozen nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide have been found, while Charon’s surface is made of frozen water and ammonia compounds. The interior of Pluto is mostly rock, while Charon contains equal measures of rock and water ice.
“These two objects have been together for billions of years, in the same orbit, but they are totally different,” said Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.
Charon is about 750 miles (1200 kilometers) across, about half the diameter of Pluto—making it the solar system’s largest moon relative to its planet. Its smaller size and lower surface contrast have made it harder for New Horizons to capture its surface features from afar, but the latest, closer images of Charon’s surface show intriguing fine details.
Newly revealed are brighter areas on Charon that members of the mission’s Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team (GGI) suspect might be impact craters. If so, the scientists would put them to good use. “If we see impact craters on Charon, it will help us see what’s hidden beneath the surface,” said GGI leader Jeff Moore of NASA’s Ames Research Center. “Large craters can excavate material from several miles down and reveal the composition of the interior.”
In short, said GGI deputy team leader John Spencer of SwRI, “Charon is now emerging as its own world. Its personality is beginning to really reveal itself.”
NASA’s unmanned New Horizons spacecraft is closing in on the Pluto system after a more than nine-year, three-billion-mile journey. On July 14 it will zip past Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour), with a suite of seven science instruments busily gathering data. The mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system with the first-ever look at the icy dwarf planet.
Follow the New Horizons mission with #PlutoFlyby and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/new.horizons
It's all getting so very exciting!!¡
Those of us old enough to remember Voyager may recall the frisson, that anticipatory thrill of discovery as those spacecraft enabled us to explore the outer planets in our solar neighbourhood for the very first time.
Having absorbed the initial Jupiter flyby, with all of the amazing pictures of the Great Red Spot and the Gallilean Moons, I remember eagerly awaiting the following encounters with Saturn, then years later with Uranus, and then Neptune.
Pluto's demotion to Dwarf Planet status notwithstanding*, this feels like the long deferred completion of the full Solar System set.
Considering Ceres was once considered a Planet as well, and this year we've had close up pics of that, too, I'd say we could call a few variations of the Classic Solar System ticked as Been Visited.
Go New Horizons Go!
All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.
Last edited by curiousuburb : 2015-07-10 at 05:02.
Reason: Spellling, layout, link fixing, etc. ;)