Latest Pluto Stories

2010-06-20 08:18:52

A large group of scientists, including Jay Pasachoff, Bryce Babcock, and Steven Souza at Williams College, reveal the character of one of the most distant objects in the solar system in a scientific paper which appeared in the June 17 issue of the journal Nature. In observing the object named 2002 TX300 on October 9, 2009, as it passed in front of a distant star, they could tell what its surface is like and its size. For several years, Pasachoff, Babcock, and Souza have worked with James...

2010-06-19 07:50:00

Zipping through space at nearly a million miles per day, NASA's New Horizons probe is halfway to Pluto and just woke up for the first time in months to look around. "Our spacecraft is way out in exotic territory, in the middle of nowhere," says Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist at Johns Hopkins University. "And we have a lot to do." It's the perfect opportunity to test New Horizon's instruments before the probe reaches Pluto in 2015. "We don't want to miss a single breathtaking...

2010-06-16 14:31:04

Occultation provided enough data to determine the KBO's size and albedo Until now, astronomers have used telescopes to find Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), moon-sized bodies, and obtain their spectra to determine what types of ices are on their surface. They have also used thermal-imaging techniques to get a rough idea of the size of KBOs, but other details have been difficult to glean. While astronomers think there are about 70,000 KBOs that are larger than 100 kilometers in diameter, the...

2010-06-15 07:19:28

We got some super-creative ideas from people on the NASAJPL Facebook page when we asked this question: "Planning a summer trip? Talk to your friends and family -- if you could design your dream space vacation, where would you go?" As promised, we're posting a small sampling of comments here, but you can read all the comments, or post your own ideas at http://www.facebook.com/NASAJPL. Eoghan Lappin: Moon for breakfast. Mars for lunch. Titan for dinner. Then all the way to Gliese 581d on a trip...

2010-05-24 14:28:22

Astronomers are reporting today the discovery of a planetary system way out of tilt, where the orbits of two planets are at a steep angle to each other. This surprising finding will impact theories of how multi-planet systems evolve, and it shows that some violent events can happen to disrupt planets' orbits after a planetary system forms, say researchers. "The findings mean that future studies of exoplanetary systems will be more complicated. Astronomers can no longer assume all planets...

2010-04-16 13:13:29

Lonely Pluto floats in the darkness at the edge of our solar system. It's so far away even the Hubble Space Telescope has trouble making out the details. Nevertheless, Pluto is so interesting, even fuzzy images of the dwarf planet are compelling. A team of researchers led by Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute recently released the best Hubble images to date. The data reveal an icy molasses-colored world with a surprising amount of activity. Buie compared Hubble images taken in 1994...

2010-04-07 06:35:00

According to the first ever infrared analysis of the atmosphere of Neptune's moon Triton, summer is in full swing in its southern hemisphere. The European observing team used ESO's Very Large Telescope and discovered carbon monoxide and made the first ground-based detection of methane in Triton's thin atmosphere. These observations revealed that the thin atmosphere varies seasonally, thickening when warmed. "We have found real evidence that the Sun still makes its presence felt on Triton,...

2010-04-06 09:15:00

As our telescopes grow more powerful, astronomers are uncovering objects that defy conventional wisdom. The latest example is the discovery of a planet-like object circling a brown dwarf. It's the right size for a planet, estimated to be 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. But the object formed in less than 1 million years "” the approximate age of the brown dwarf "” and much faster than the predicted time it takes to build planets according to some theories. Kamen Todorov of Penn...

2010-02-13 20:30:00

Twenty years ago on February 14, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft had sailed beyond the outermost planet in our solar system and turned its camera inward to snap a series of final images that would be its parting valentine to the string of planets it called home. Mercury was too close to the sun to see, Mars showed only a thin crescent of sunlight, and Pluto was too dim, but Voyager was able to capture cameos of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from its unique vantage point. These...

2010-02-04 13:40:00

NASA has released the most detailed and dramatic images ever taken of the distant dwarf planet Pluto. The images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show an icy, mottled, dark molasses-colored world undergoing seasonal surface color and brightness changes. Pluto has become significantly redder, while its illuminated northern hemisphere is getting brighter. These changes are most likely consequences of surface ice melting on the sunlit pole and then refreezing on the other pole, as the dwarf...

Latest Pluto Reference Libraries

2004-10-19 04:45:42

Planet -- A planet is a body of considerable mass that orbits a star and that doesn't produce energy through nuclear fusion. Until recently, only nine were known (all of them in our own Solar system). As of the end of 2002 over 100 are known, with all of the new discoveries being extrasolar planets. Astronomers often call asteroids minor planets, and call the larger planetary bodies (those which are commonly called planets) major planets. Planets within the solar system can be...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Asteroid -- An asteroid, also called a minor planet or planetoid, is a member of a group of small, planet-like bodies that are part of our solar system. They are believed to be remnants of the interstellar clouds, nebula, that were not incorporated into planets during the formation of the solar system. The largest asteroid in the inner solar system is Ceres with a diameter of 1003 km. It also was the first to be discovered, by Giuseppe Piazzi on January 1, 1801. Nowadays, over 9000...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Quaoar -- Quaoar ("kwah-oh-ahr", /kwA o Ar/) is a Trans-Neptunian object circling the Sun in the Kuiper belt, discovered in 2002 by astronomers Chad Trujillo and Mike Brown at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Quaoar is estimated to have a diameter of about 1,280 kilometres, which would make it the largest Solar System object discovered since Pluto and, indeed, the largest known minor planet. Larger than all the asteroids put together, it is about one...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Kuiper Belt -- The Kuiper belt is an area of the solar system extending outwards from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to 50 AU. The largest of the objects in the Kuiper belt are the planet Pluto and its moon Charon. A new Kuiper belt object, currently called 2001 KX76, has been found that is about the size of Charon, and larger than Ceres. Another such object, Quaoar, discovered in 2002, is half the size of Pluto. Other known Kuiper belt objects are progressively smaller. The exact...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Planet Charon -- Charon is the only known satellite of Pluto. Charon was discovered by astronomer James Christy in 1978 using photographic plates which showed a bulge moving around Pluto. Christy named it after the Greek mythological figure Charon but pronounced it differently. The "ch" at the beginning of the moon's name is soft so it sounds like "Sharon," after the astronomer's wife Charlene, nicknamed Char, which both have soft ch sounds. The mythological figure's name is...

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Word of the Day
  • A stinking tobacco.
  • Offal; waste animal product; organic matter unfit for consumption.
This word comes from the Spanish 'mondongo,' tripe, entrails.