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…
Read More

The Mystery Of Pluto’s X-Ray Glow

If you’ve been to a dentist, you’re probably familiar with X-rays. Like the colors purple and red, X-rays are a “color” of light but one invisible to the human eye. If there were X-ray-sensing life forms, who knows what hue they’d see, but it would have a color. Even though X-rays are invisible, they have many…
Read More

Ice Goes Into Hiding On Ceres / Dawn, Pluto Probe Update

We know there’s ice inside Ceres, but it may be chillin’ on the surface, too. Scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission have identified permanently shadowed craters on the dwarf planet that have likely been cold enough to trap water ice for a billion years. “The conditions on Ceres are right for accumulating deposits of water ice,” said…
Read More

Take A Trip Down The Strip — Best Closeups Of Pluto Yet

A new, detailed mosaic slice of Pluto, which I’ve chopped into seven pieces, each representing a sample of a different terrain, was released by NASA on May 27. It includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by NASA’s New Horizons probe as it flew past Pluto on July 14 last year. It extends across the hemisphere that faced the…
Read More

Pluto Churns Like A Lava Lamp

A recently released high-resolution swath of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows all kinds of wonderful things in Sputnik Planum, the informal name given to the icy plains dominating the left side of Pluto’s big “heart”. The strip reveals features less than half a city block in size Sputnik Planum is at a lower elevation…
Read More