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Two Tales from the World of from Big Astronomy

6 Jan 2016, 03:35 UTC
Two Tales from the World of from Big Astronomy
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Astronomy Stories are Cosmic!
Each year about this time, I go stand under a firehose of astronomy information. It’s actually called the American Astronomical Society winter meeting, and it brings together several thousand of the world’s astronomers (not just Americans) to share the latest and greatest in astronomy research.
So, what do we learn at this meeting? Let’s take just take two examples of things I heard about on this first day.
To Pluto…
A swatch of mountainous icy terrain on Pluto. Courtesy New Horizons mission.
It began with a Kavli Award talk given by Alan Stern, PI of the New Horizons mission. The view of this distant world as seen by the spacecraft is getting better with each data dump as it sends back mission data across billions of miles as it speeds toward a January 2019 encounter with the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.
Alan’s overview showed that Pluto is an unexpectedly amazing world. For example, the large, heart-shaped Sputnik Planum is distinctly younger than the rest of Pluto’s surface — around only a million years old. This region is, as Alan stated, about the size of Texas and ringed by mountains made of water ice. There is ...

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