Beautiful Pluto. From three billion miles out. Pictures and science are pouring in!
Little Pluto is the superstar this week. The dwarf planet on the edge of the solar system. Three billion miles away. And suddenly revealed in astonishing detail by our tiny human probe. It’s got mountains higher than the Rockies. It’s got ice aplenty and internal heat. It’s got a remarkably smooth complexion for a body battered by eons of space stuff. And suddenly it’s right in our laps, with many more images to come. We’ve dreamed and speculated and debated on Pluto for years. Now it’s right in front of us. This hour On Point: all about the spectacular Pluto.
-- Tom Ashbrook
Alice Bowman, New Horizons missions operations manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Group supervisor of the US Space Department's Space Missions Operations Group.
From Tom’s Reading List
BBC News: New Horizons: Images reveal ice mountains on Pluto — "Pluto has mountains made of ice that are as high as those in the Rockies, images from the New Horizons probe reveal. They also show signs of geological activity on Pluto and its moon Charon. On Wednesday, scientists presented the first pictures acquired by the New Horizons probe during its historic flyby of the dwarf planet."
Planetary Society: First look at New Horizons' Pluto and Charon images: "baffling in a very interesting and wonderful way" -- "Those mountains are something else. They don't line up like impact crater rims. There are kind of similar mountains on Io, but this weird dense patch isn't a perfect match to that. Earth has pointy mountains, but Earth also has water erosion. So how's this for a going-out-on-a-limb, crazy idea: Are Pluto's mountains like Earth's or Titan's? Have they been eroded into their present shapes by fluid flow: water on Earth, methane on Titan, and, I don't know, nitrogen or neon on Pluto?"
NPR News: Pluto Encounter Is A Legacy Of Our Generation — "The size of a grand piano, powered by 24 pounds of radioactive plutonium dioxide, New Horizons runs on just 200 watts of power — about the same as a powerful light bulb. The mission has transformed a distant icy dot — hardly resolved from Earth-based telescopes, and a smeared ball even from the daring Hubble Space Telescope — into a true world, covered with remarkably complex geology, including a mysterious belt of dark disks around its equator. Even more amazing, the dwarf planet 'has sent a love note back to Earth' showing an enormous heart-shaped feature on its surface."
This program aired on July 17, 2015.