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Almost 10 years ago, like many people, I watched the launch of a particular spacecraft, a spacecraft for the study of a particular celestial object that many still do not take into consideration, a spacecraft to open us New Horizons.

 

In nearly six days, New Horizons will pass over Pluto at 11095 km and 13.78 km/s around 11:50 UTC and will overfly Charon about a quarter later. She then continue her journey to the Kuiper belt and follow the path of his predecessors, the Voyager probes.

 

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Here you can follow her for the next days :

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/index.php

 

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FOCUS, FOCUS!!!!

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A bit more news from yesterday

 

nh-pluto-map.jpg

 

This map of Pluto, created from images taken from June 27-July 3, 2015, by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons, was combined with lower-resolution color data from the spacecraft's Ralph instrument. The center of the map corresponds to the side of Pluto that will be seen close-up during New Horizons' July 14 flyby.
 
This map gives mission scientists an important tool to decipher the complex and intriguing pattern of bright and dark markings on Pluto's surface. Features from all sides of Pluto can now be seen at a glance and from a consistent perspective, making it much easier to compare their shapes and sizes.
 
The elongated dark area informally known as "the whale," along the equator on the left side of the map, is one of the darkest regions visible to New Horizons. It measures some 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) in length. Directly to the right of the whale’s "snout" is the brightest region visible on the planet, which is roughly 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. This may be a region where relatively fresh deposits of frost—perhaps including frozen methane, nitrogen and/or carbon monoxide—form a bright coating. 
 
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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Shots and news from the last 72H.

 

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Pluto and Charon dancing together, rendered by Ralph (Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera) from July 8

 

 

Houston, We Have Geology
 
 
It began as a point of light. Then, it evolved into a fuzzy orb. Now – in its latest portrait from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft – Pluto is being revealed as an intriguing new world with distinct surface features, including an immense dark band known as the “whale.”
 
As the newest black and white image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) appeared on the screen before members of the science team, they reacted with joy and delight, seeing Pluto as never before. There will be many more moments to come, as new images are received and New Horizons speeds closer to a July 14 flyby after a journey of three billion miles.
 
“We’re close enough now that we’re just starting to see Pluto’s geology,” said New Horizons program scientist Curt Niebur, NASA Headquarters in Washington, who’s keenly interested in the gray area just above the whale’s “tail” feature. “It’s a unique transition region with a lot of dynamic processes interacting, which makes it of particular scientific interest.”
 
New Horizons’ latest image of Pluto was taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away, with a resolution of 17 miles (27 kilometers) per pixel. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon, and includes the so-called “tail” of the dark whale-shaped feature along its equator. (The immense, bright feature shaped like a heart had rotated from view when this image was captured.)
 
“Among the structures tentatively identified in this new image are what appear to be polygonal features; a complex band of terrain stretching east-northeast across the planet, approximately 1,000 miles long; and a complex region where bright terrains meet the dark terrains of the whale,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. “After nine and a half years in flight, Pluto is well worth the wait.”
 
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Tantalizing signs of geology on Pluto are revealed in this image from New Horizons taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon, and includes the so-called “tail” of the dark whale-shaped feature along its equator. (The immense, bright feature shaped like a heart had rotated from view when this image was captured. Among the structures tentatively identified in this new image are what appear to be polygonal features; a complex band of terrain stretching east-northeast across the planet, approximately 1,000 miles long; and a complex region where bright terrains meet the dark terrains of the whale. 
 
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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About 750 000 km and 15 hours remaining.

 

New Horizons captured a world that is growing more fascinating by the day. For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Rotating into view is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons' closest approach on July 14. The annotated version includes a diagram indicating Pluto's north pole, equator, and central meridian. 

 

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NASA’s New Horizons mission has answered one of the most basic questions about Pluto—its size.
 
Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates. Images acquired with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were used to make this determination. This result confirms what was already suspected: Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune.
 
The size of Pluto has been debated since its discovery in 1930. We are excited to finally lay this question to rest said mission scientist Bill McKinnon, Washington University, St. Louis.
 
Pluto’s newly estimated size means that its density is slightly lower than previously thought, and the fraction of ice in its interior is slightly higher. Also, the lowest layer of Pluto’s atmosphere, called the troposphere, is shallower than previously believed.
 
Measuring Pluto’s size has been a decades-long challenge due to complicating factors from its atmosphere. Its largest moon Charon lacks a substantial atmosphere, and its diameter was easier to determine using ground-based telescopes. New Horizons observations of Charon confirm previous estimates of 751 miles (1208 km) kilometers) across
 
LORRI has also zoomed in on two of Pluto’s smaller moons, Nix and Hydra.
 
7-13-15_Denver_Nix_Hydra_JHUAPL.jpgThe approximate sizes of Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra compared to Denver, Colorado. While Nix and Hydra are illustrated as circles in this diagram, mission scientists anticipate that future observations by New Horizons will show that they are irregular in shape. 
 
We knew from the time we designed our flyby that we would only be able to study the small moons in detail for just a few days before closest approach said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. Now, deep inside Pluto’s sphere of influence, that time has come.
Nix and Hydra were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005. Even to Hubble, they appeared as points of light, and that’s how they looked to New Horizons until the final week of its approach to Pluto. Now, the latest LORRI images show the two diminutive satellites not as pinpoints, but as moons seen well enough to measure their sizes. Nix is estimated to be about 20 miles (about 35 kilometers) across, while Hydra is roughly 30 miles (roughly 45 kilometers) across. These sizes lead mission scientists to conclude that their surfaces are quite bright, possibly due to the presence of ice.
 
What about Pluto’s two smallest moons, Kerberos and Styx? Smaller and fainter than Nix and Hydra, they are harder to measure. Mission scientists should be able to determine their sizes with observations New Horizons will make during the flyby and will transmit to Earth at a later date.

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Hm, at least seems we're lucky with the weather................

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