Ultima Thule Encounter Less Than 7 Months Away

After we welcome in the new year at midnight December 31, we’ll wake up (or stay up) to witness another milestone on the first day of 2019: the farthest planetary encounter in history.  At 12:33 a.m., with many a New Year’s party still in progress, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to…
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Wind-Sculpted Dunes Sweeten Pluto’s Planetary Trappings

Last night during a talk I gave about the night sky, a woman asked why Pluto is not a planet. She, like many other people who’ve attended my classes and talks since August 24, 2006, the day the erstwhile planet was demoted to dwarf planet, was still attached to the idea that it should remain…
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Pluto Gets Its First Official Names

No more pussyfooting around. It’s official: Pluto has 14 new place names. Most we suspected would be there, but a few are new. Pluto’s “heart” now bears the name of American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930. Venetia Burney, the British schoolgirl who in 1930 suggested the name “Pluto,” Roman god of the underworld,…
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Summer Too Hot? Cool Off With These New Flyover Videos Of Pluto And Charon

Soaring Over Pluto. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SSI/LPI It’s been two years since NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft gave us our first closeup look at Pluto and its moons. These new videos use photos and elevation models of of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, that offer a fresh new perspective of the features that make these objects so fascinating…
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Star Trek Makes Its Mark On Pluto’s Moon Charon

Evocative, isn’t it? That’s Pluto’s largest moon Charon against a star field, illuminated by the faint light reflected from nearby Pluto. The right edge of the moon just catches the sunlight from the side and shows as a bright crescent. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was already about 100,000 miles (150,000 km) beyond Pluto when the…
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