The Heart of Pluto

The World that was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet in August 2006, it is nothing but a complex and interesting world with five moons swirling around it. Image a world that has snowfall of nitrogen and methane and spending 248 years circling the sun on a high orbital tilt creating some radical seasonal changes. Pluto tilt is so extreme, 120°, that it almost “sits” on it’s “side”. 

New Horizon is sending 13 hours worth of data that started coming in this morning at 9:00am and will take sixteen months to fully transmit all the data it has collected. The first vivid image shows a “heart” on Pluto terrain. I see the tail of a whale, but…

Pluto lies in the Kuiper belt among many other similar sized objects. The three billion mile journey to this dwarf planet took nine and a half years. Avoiding debris strikes as it soars just 7,750 miles above the dwarf planet, Pluto_Earth_Moon_Comparisonthe New Horizons spacecraft has been gathering data as it flies by the dwarf planet. Scientists expect to receive information about Pluto’s atmosphere, the surface, and many more interesting facts. What do Scientists hope to learn about Pluto? What they do know is Pluto shows signs of tectonic activity, but it is not determined yet whether it is current or ancient activity. They hope to receive data on topography through color data spectroscopy, thermal maps, and higher resolution photos which will further define the color variations already seen on the planet.

Currently, the New Horizons spacecraft is powered by RTG, Radioisotope thermoelectric generator, like all outer planet deep space missions. Fueling the spacecraft is the radioactive element Plutonium, named after Pluto. It will eventually degrade over the course of about twenty years, but not without transmitting more data from the outer limits of our solar system. Scientists hope to obtain data of the deep reaching heliosphere which will allow them to further understand the environment of our solar system. If the spacecraft is able to continue transmitting beyond the reaches of the heliosphere, it will obtain samples from interstellar space. 

Watch the video above to learn more. Thank you NASA!