Pluto flyby

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Pluto flyby

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:16 am UTC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33517532

Very surprised to not see a thread on this already, because it's kind of a big deal. Anyway, for anyone who has been living under a rock lately, there's about half a tonne of hardware whizzing past Pluto today, taking pictures, sampling any tenuous whisps of atmosphere, measuring magnetic fields. Generating those all-important science points for NASA.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 9:11 am UTC

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:47 am UTC

From http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/soc/Pluto-Encounter/index.php?page=1

Image that was bigger than I wanted it to be in spoiler:
Spoiler:
Image


Interesting bumpiness. That big circular feature at the top of Pluto in this image looks crater-y to me. And I'd love to know what the dark and light splotches are, and why they seem to border each other... could the dark bit even be a band, a huge circular feature around something out of sight?

Anyway. Woo! Pluto!
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jul 14, 2015 12:00 pm UTC

I loved that Pluto had a giant heart shaped feature.

We demoted it from planet, and all it can do is say 'I love you'.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Tue Jul 14, 2015 12:11 pm UTC

I love that idea, and yet I bet it's as heart-shaped as that human/alien face on Mars turned out to be human/alien-face-shaped.

And even if it is properly heart-shaped, it'll be frozen methane or something. As in, Pluto saying "this heart is like yours: frozen and more like a fart".

It's a shame that the observations we'll get are all in such a short window of time; observing that patch, and many other features, in and out of the sunlight, could be very interesting. But sadly we can't do that.

I am reminded somewhat of that forlorn "Bugger" feeling from Elite 2: Frontier when you ran out of fuel halfway in to a solar system and ended up shooting forlornly past your target at close range; there was a magnificent view for a brief period before the bright, interesting thing receded again, and you were alone once more in the void, drifting ever further from anything else...
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Yablo » Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:51 pm UTC

Echo244 wrote:Image that was bigger than I wanted it to be in spoiler:

H.P. Lovecraft suggested that Pluto might be the planet Yuggoth where the Mi-Go live. In that context, the eye-shaped thing at the top of the planet is even more awesome.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:56 pm UTC

New Horizons alive and well after flyby

mission operations manager Alice Bowman wrote:We are in lock with telemetry from the spacecraft.
We have a healthy spacecraft, we have recorded data from the Pluto system, and we are outbound from Pluto.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby ucim » Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:11 pm UTC

wherein the article wrote:Nasa's administrator Charles Bolden said: "With this mission, we have visited every single planet in the Solar System."
AHA! Pluto is a planet after all!

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:45 pm UTC

Yablo wrote:
Echo244 wrote:Image that was bigger than I wanted it to be in spoiler:

H.P. Lovecraft suggested that Pluto might be the planet Yuggoth where the Mi-Go live. In that context, the eye-shaped thing at the top of the planet is even more awesome.


As I understand it, underworld characters are being used to name features on it, so...Cthulhu is the name for a valley or something.

Also, re the "pluto is a planet", there's a certain Rick and Morty episode that needs watching...

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:13 pm UTC

Sweet. I think the other bodies were named Styx and Kerboros.

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Fractal_Tangent » Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:03 pm UTC

Did you people watch the press conference!?
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:42 pm UTC

No! Please update us :) (if you did watch)

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Fractal_Tangent » Wed Jul 15, 2015 9:04 pm UTC

They've unveiled a new image of Pluto which doesn't have any impact craters which is contrary to what was expected (here). Charon has an extremely smooth surface which hints at possible activity keeping it geologically active which can't be due to tides because of the tidal locking between Pluto and Charon means almost no energy is exchanged. So Charon having a smooth surface is a mystery because normally tides are invoked to keep surfaces young-looking. We've had some preliminary spectra data that I'm not sure about. We got to see a blurry image of Hydra (here) which means that we can find out exactly how big Hydra is from just the pixel sizes (first time ever).

There's good stuff. So much good stuff.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby moody7277 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 9:07 pm UTC

Semi-official name for the heart is Tombaugh Regio.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 9:48 pm UTC

Fractal_Tangent wrote:They've unveiled a new image of Pluto which doesn't have any impact craters which is contrary to what was expected (here). Charon has an extremely smooth surface which hints at possible activity keeping it geologically active which can't be due to tides because of the tidal locking between Pluto and Charon means almost no energy is exchanged. So Charon having a smooth surface is a mystery because normally tides are invoked to keep surfaces young-looking. We've had some preliminary spectra data that I'm not sure about. We got to see a blurry image of Hydra (here) which means that we can find out exactly how big Hydra is from just the pixel sizes (first time ever).

There's good stuff. So much good stuff.


OK, so the initial assumptions (or at least mine, regarding craters) were wrong, and we have more questions than answers? Especially regarding Charon?

...

Awesome!

Really, I wish we were able to get more measurements and photos than just this brief flyby. And a better shot of Hydra.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Fractal_Tangent » Wed Jul 15, 2015 9:52 pm UTC

Honestly, half of the Q&A was 'So, what do you think of X?' *scientists look around, gleefully* 'We don't know?'
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Wed Jul 15, 2015 9:55 pm UTC

Ha! I must catch up with a recording of the Q&A tomorrow.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Derek » Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:28 pm UTC


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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Fractal_Tangent » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:24 am UTC

The atmosphere in the place was described as bedlam. Which is lovely.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby ElWanderer » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:19 am UTC

There is a lot more data and lots more images to come, but the probe can only transmit at 1-4kb/s so it will take a long time (over a year) before we have it all. I don't know if there will be a better shot of Hydra in the full dataset; that's something I've wondered myself.

The surface really is a surprise. I guess I'd assumed it would look similar to Ceres.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby verygoodyear » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:56 am UTC

What's really amazing is that over the course of its almost 10 year voyage it was 72 seconds *early* when it arrived. Utterly insane level of accuracy considering the distances involved, including slingshotting around jupiter and other maneuvers.

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:58 am UTC

I think in the Q&A they said they'd have a better image of Hydra later on. I'm listening while at work and glimpsing some of the images while nobody's looking at my screen.. It's awesome - I love the excitement at not knowing the answers to all these questions but having some data to start formulating theories.

(Thanks for the link, Derek!)
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Thu Jul 16, 2015 12:46 pm UTC

Thanks for the links and information!

Could the lack of craters be explained by the inclination of its orbit? Pluto spends so much time "outside" the plane of the Solar System, maybe it stays out of the path of many asteroids? Add its relative small size and it might be unlikely to be hit?

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby ElWanderer » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:36 pm UTC

PolakoVoador wrote:Thanks for the links and information!

Could the lack of craters be explained by the inclination of its orbit? Pluto spends so much time "outside" the plane of the Solar System, maybe it stays out of the path of many asteroids? Add its relative small size and it might be unlikely to be hit?


I would doubt this. Beyond Neptune the range of inclinations is much, much higher than the inner Solar System. Pluto's inclination (17 degrees) is not unusual in comparison - the wiki page for the Kuiper Belt suggests the main concentration extends out to 10 degrees - so it's probably safe to assume that there are lots of rocks out there that could cross Pluto's orbit. Yes, there is more 'space' out there, but there is also reckoned to be a lot of stuff pinging around unpredictably in it. Given millions of years, we would expect impacts.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:53 pm UTC

ElWanderer wrote:
PolakoVoador wrote:Thanks for the links and information!

Could the lack of craters be explained by the inclination of its orbit? Pluto spends so much time "outside" the plane of the Solar System, maybe it stays out of the path of many asteroids? Add its relative small size and it might be unlikely to be hit?


I would doubt this. Beyond Neptune the range of inclinations is much, much higher than the inner Solar System. Pluto's inclination (17 degrees) is not unusual in comparison - the wiki page for the Kuiper Belt suggests the main concentration extends out to 10 degrees - so it's probably safe to assume that there are lots of rocks out there that could cross Pluto's orbit. Yes, there is more 'space' out there, but there is also reckoned to be a lot of stuff pinging around unpredictably in it. Given millions of years, we would expect impacts.


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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby HES » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:55 pm UTC

Charon is smooth because of the dormant relay's mass-effect fields, of course.

ElWanderer wrote:Given millions of years, we would expect impacts.

Earth years or Pluto years? :P
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:55 pm UTC

Also, you have to factor in the apparent geological processes in to how many craters we can see. Were there more craters than apparent now, and they've been covered/distorted/destroyed by mountain formation/whatever?

In particular was a comment from the Q&A about the "Mordor" region on Charon, and someone mentioning that there were a few features where something may have punctured the thin veneer of dark material to expose a brighter layer beneath. What if a stereoscopic view, that I think was mentioned in the Q&A, reveals some craters under the layer of dark stuff? Would that give us a clue that there are more craters, and they get covered/altered/whatever... and give us an approximate date for the creation of Mordor?

This is exciting stuff. Because we really don't know!
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby BattleMoose » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:41 am UTC

Echo244 wrote:Were there more craters than apparent now, and they've been covered/distorted/destroyed by mountain formation/whatever?


That is certainly an explanation. But there is no plausible explanation for an internal heat source that could fuel such geologic formations. Its all very puzzling. Possibly they are just very young comparatively.

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby iamspen » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:32 am UTC

Charon appears to have a mountain inside a deep depression, which doesn't make any goddamn sense.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:56 am UTC

...and if those circular features are craters, is it a reasonable assumption to make that Pluto has had the same level of bombardment?

(Yay! Everything we thought we knew was wrong!)
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby schapel » Fri Jul 17, 2015 12:00 pm UTC

Charon seems to have numerous impact craters. I would think that Pluto would have a comparable density of craters if its surface were older. During the press conference, they said the recent geological activity on such a small body as Pluto which doesn't have a large nearby body to heat it with tidal forces was completely unexpected. What's providing the heat? Is it radioactive decay? Do planetary bodies hold the heat from their formation longer that previously thought? Maybe it's hellfire and the name Pluto is more apropos than we realized!

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:48 pm UTC

... with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Echo244 » Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:23 pm UTC

Woooo! Some interesting stuff there. I'm wondering if some of the softer, rounder features are older than the more sharply-defined mountains, and what's with that suspiciously smooth flat area, and... all sorts of things, really. It's difficult to stop myself running away with wild theories, really.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby Whizbang » Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:29 pm UTC

Looks like some ironing still needs to be done.

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:24 pm UTC


Are thse from Pluto or Charon? I'm guessing Pluto, but just to be sure.

And holy crap. There's so many crazy features on those images, I imagine the scientists behind the project are more or less like this:
Spoiler:
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:13 pm UTC

Ice plains in the heart of Pluto's heart.

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:27 pm UTC

What's the darker stuff? Shadows from terrain?

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:16 pm UTC

Possibly. Not sure if that means terrain features sticking up out of the ground, or crevices. Hard to tell from that moderately pixelated image.
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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby PolakoVoador » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:42 pm UTC

Went to the NASA website to see if there were any official theory, but for now it's mostly "Maybe hills? I dunno" due to the limited amount of data sent back.

What I liked was this phrase:

Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) wrote:We’ve only scratched the surface of our Pluto exploration, but it already seems clear to me that in the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, the best was saved for last.


Have any other rocky world (or moon) of our solar system given us so many "Well, no idea how that happens" at first encounter?

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Re: Pluto flyby

Postby schapel » Fri Jul 17, 2015 10:09 pm UTC

Echo244 wrote:...what's with that suspiciously smooth flat area...

I would suspect a flat, smooth area means that it became liquid or near-liquid at some point and gravity smoothed it out. If those smooth areas are made of water ice like the mountains are, that means it really warmed up a lot at some point in the recent past! Maybe the composition of those areas is other ices that can be slushy even in cold temperatures -- during the press conference they said that only water ice was strong enough to form the mountains, so maybe these plains are methane or nitrogen ice or slush.

PolakoVoador wrote:Have any other rocky world (or moon) of our solar system given us so many "Well, no idea how that happens" at first encounter?

Not so long ago we thought mountains on Earth formed when the crust cooled and buckled, and we even thought that the Sun's energy came from gravitational collapse. We often have such a lack of ideas how things happen that an explanation that turns out to be completely wrong can be accepted for decades. I don't think Pluto has caused significantly more WTF!? than many other celestial bodies. I think it's par for the course -- this is how science works.


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