Pluto’s unexpected surface and moons
The New Horizons mission team reported several unusual findings concerning Pluto this week at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Among the biggest was the discovery of two large and distinct mountains that New Horizons geologists think could be recently active “cryovolcanoes”. So-called cryovolcanoes are thought to spew a semi-frozen slurry of water ice, nitrogen or other gases instead of fire, smoke and lava […]
New Horizons spacecraft detects Pluto plasma tail
NASA reports that the New Horizons spacecraft has detected a tail of plasma streaming behind Pluto at a distance between 48,000 miles (77,000 km) and 68,000 miles (109,000 km). This plasma was detected by New Horizons’ Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument and is comprised of nitrogen ions that have escaped from Pluto’s thin atmosphere. It is theorized by NASA that “escaping molecules” are ionized by solar ultraviolet light, “picked up” by the solar wind, […]
New Horizons spacecraft experiences anomaly
NASA reports that the New Horizons spacecraft, now less than 10 days from its fly-by with Pluto, experienced an “anomaly” that resulted in a loss of communications on Saturday, July 4th at 1:54 pm EDT (17:54 UTC). Communications were reestablished a little over an hour later at 3:15 pm EDT (19:15 UTC) but the spacecraft has automatically put itself into “safe mode” because of the anomaly. NASA teams are working on a recovery plan but because the spacecraft is […]
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