From Point of Light to Actual World
Pluto from New Horizons, July 13, 2015. Courtesy NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI
Today we learned more from the New Horizons mission team about Pluto than all the observations put together since the planet was found in 1930. I know that sounds a little hyperbolic, but think about it. We now know Pluto’s exact size: 2,370 kilometers across (1,473 miles). That’s a very big deal, since it also changes the estimates of its density. It’s less dense than we thought. Which means it has slightly more ice in its composition than planetary scientists thought.
We’ve also learned more about the surface of both Pluto and Charon in the past 24 hours than anyone ever knew. Before this week, all we could really say with certainty was that these worlds are icy, Pluto has a polar spot, and an atmosphere.
How much has changed in 48 hours! We’ve all seen the images, with the craters, the chasms, the strange markings, the polar ice and the dark curlicues of material. As Alan Stern keeps asking, “Who ordered THIS??!”
What Does it Feel Like?
Charon, as seen by New Horizons, July 13, 2015.
Alan and others on the team have ...