Ralph Fiennes as Hades, God of the Underworld, in Clash of the Titans (2010). Image Source: invisionfree.
Pluto, the planet whose value was downgraded, is fittingly named after the god of the Underworld, because this planetoid guards the point where the solar system ends and the outer system around our sun, the Kuiper Belt, begins. Pluto was discovered in 1930, but only in the new Millennium has our technology become advanced enough for us to begin to understand the vast Netherworld over which Pluto presides along with another minor body, Eris, once designated as the tenth planet. Our new awareness of the Kuiper Belt is the reason why Pluto was downgraded, and why Eris, discovered only in 2005, was downgraded too. Pluto at this time dominates the wild area beyond the planet Neptune, where we reach the limits of knowledge of our solar system.
On to the teeny tiny moons Kerberos & Styx! Did you know my science team found them after I launched? #PlutoFlyBy pic.twitter.com/tudRSnAm3M— NASA New Horizons (@NASANewHorizons) July 13, 2015
Depictions of the hellhound, Cerberus, and the Hydra in the film, Hercules (2014). Images Source: fxguide.
Always a pecking order: the top four planetoids or 'dwarf planets' are accepted by the International Astronomical Union as minor planets of the solar system. The bottom four are candidates for dwarf planet status. Image Source: Wiki.
Extending the outer limits of knowledge: the outer bodies of the solar system are a huge source of carbon-bearing molecules, which are found in the DNA of every creature on Earth. The Belt also abounds with frozen volatile ices, which means that water and life on Earth may have originated in the Kuiper Belt and been borne by comet strikes to our planet. That is why the close fly-by by NASA craft New Horizons on 14 July 2015 is so stunning. Astronomers have already photographed something glittering at Pluto's north pole. You can follow the live NASA news briefing on 14 July 2015 at 7:30 a.m. EDT here. There will be another live Pluto flyby media briefing on 14 July 2015 at 8:15 a.m. EDT here. After New Horizons passes Pluto, it will continue taking photos in the Kuiper Belt if NASA receives a sufficient budget to continue the project.
- Twitter, NASA New Horizons
- Twitter, #PlutoFlyby
- Twitter, #PlutoTime
- Live Comet Data, live data on the spacecraft
- See Pluto Now
- NASA television / media coverage
- NASA documentary, The Year of Pluto, discovery of Pluto up to New Horizons mission
- NASA press conference on New Horizons call-in, 14 July 2015 at 9:30 p.m. EDT
Background on New Horizons mission explains how the spacecraft adjusted its course in mid-flight to come so close to Pluto in July 2015. Video Source: Youtube.
Pluto's year is 248 Earth years. Video Source: Youtube.
New Horizons launch (19 January 2006) at Cape Canaveral. Image Source: Space Flight Insider.
New Horizons spacecraft in the original mission proposal. Image Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Video Source: Space.com.
Follow @NewHorizons2015 ASAP. We've only got 6 days until the flyby. See the heart? Pluto loves us. pic.twitter.com/zXVAKU7WeD— Fraser Cain (@fcain) July 8, 2015
Last Look at Pluto's Charon Side: "As the robotic New Horizons barrels toward its closest approach to Pluto and its moons tomorrow, images already coming back show Pluto's surface to be curiouser and curiouser. The featured image, taken two days ago, shows the side of Pluto that always faces Pluto's largest moon Charon. Particularly noteworthy is the dark belt near the bottom that circles Pluto's equator. It is currently unclear whether regions in this dark belt are mountainous or flat, why boundaries are so sharply defined, and why the light regions seem to be nearly evenly spaced. As New Horizons will be flying past the other side of Pluto, this should be the best image of this distant landscape that humanity sees for a long time." Image Source © (11 July 2015) NASA / Johns Hopkins / Southwest Research Institute.
"Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015." Image Source © (11 July 2015) NASA / Johns Hopkins / Southwest Research Institute.
"This graphic presents a view of Pluto and Charon as they would appear if placed slightly above Earth's surface and viewed from a great distance. Recent measurements obtained by New Horizons indicate that Pluto has a diameter of 2370 km, 18.5% that of Earth's, while Charon has a diameter of 1208 km, 9.5% that of Earth's." Image Source: NASA.
Pluto Time in my backyard.
To help people understand how bright sunlight is on Pluto, NASA has devised a tool which allows you to enter your longitude and latitude; it will tell you the few moments of the day in your area which are equivalent to light at high noon on Pluto. People upload their photos to NASA, here and here, and onto Twitter at hashtag #PlutoTime.
Make it count: you've got one night left to share your #PlutoTime before the flyby http://t.co/CmLM4RMMPX pic.twitter.com/fGfGcdMXht— Jason Major (@JPMajor) July 13, 2015
#PlutoTime "Noon on Pluto" at Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island, San Diego, CA! Only 5 days left until encounter! pic.twitter.com/x5mkYuiRub— Leslie Lowes (@LeslieLowesJPL) July 9, 2015
Pluto Time in Jakarta. Image Source: arieriswandy.
Pluto Time - light as it looks at high noon on Pluto overlooking San Francisco Bay. Image Source: payote.
Pluto Time in Iguape, Brazil. Image Source: lisianemarx.
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