Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Where is Pluto now?

Far, far in the rear view mirror I'm afraid. As our spacecraft zooms away at almost 15 km/second (or over 32,000 mph!) we continue to blast images back towards Earth, where there are gathered on the ground thanks to the lovely DSN and sent to the scientists for analysis.

Over the past few months, we have seen some beautiful images and learned some amazing things.

One of my favorites, the image above was the far side of Pluto as it was back-lit by the Sun. You can see right away the existence of an atmosphere, apparently 5 times what was predicted.

Here you can see the famous heart picture of Pluto, enhanced in false color with the help of the RALPH instrument.

And not to be forgotten, Pluto's largest moon Charon had this beautiful closeup. To me, the level of detail is absolutely amazing.

The images and scans continue to come down. I won't even pretend to understand all of the scientific discoveries that have happened, but from what I've read they are significant. Next week I am attending a conference given by the Division for Planetary Science and will be able to listen to some presentations about what we have learned so far.

Finally, here's a really cool video of what it was like for New Horizons to encounter the Pluto system.

Our universe is vast and largely unexplored. I for one am thankful to be part of this teeny tiny view.