The People of Pluto

Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman and Lawrence Gowen of the band Styx pose for a picture with members of the New Horizons science team, Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.  Members of the band Styx visited with New Horizons team members and Mark Showalter, who discovered Pluto's fifth moon, Styx, in July of 2012.   Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Following their Long and Winding Road
By now, you’ve probably heard that New Horizons has recovered from its safe mode event of July 4th, and has resumed science operations today. The flyby sequence has begun.  That’s great news, and a great tribute to the team that figured out the problems within 30 minutes of the event, and then came up with the recovery plan.
Meet the Folks
I want to talk about that team. It’s made up of very … Continue reading

Scientists Have NOT Discovered Life on Comet 67P

UP close and personal with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  Courtesy Rosetta/ESA.

Speculation Runs Rampant in the Face of Facts
I know it’s very tantalizing to fantasize about life on other worlds, or think about comets and asteroids strewing life-seeds around the planets as they go around the Sun. It’s fuel for hours of fun discussion at cocktail parties, and there’s some serious science going on investigating these possibilities.
But, come on, these stories in the mainstream media, fed by a press release that should have never have escaped … Continue reading

New Horizons Returns to Science Ops at Pluto July 7

New Horizons, Pluto, and Charon (artist's concept). Courtesy NASA.

A “Hard to Detect Timing Flaw” Found as the Cause of Safe Mode
Good news, folks!  New Horizons will be back in normal science ops mode starting Tuesday, July 7th!  They found the problem!
This just in (from NASA.gov):
“NASA’s New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto.
The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on … Continue reading

New Horizons Misses Call, Reboots and Phones Home

A Temporary Setback on the Approach to Pluto
The news came late yesterday (July 4) that the New Horizons spacecraft had temporarily lost communications with Earth, and then regained them after switching to the backup computer. The outage was only a few hours long (and you can read the announcement here)  Alan Stern commented on Facebook last night that the team was working through the problem. There’s also been an Anomaly Review Board convened to help solve … Continue reading

Why the Dark Spots on Pluto?

A sharpened view of one hemisphere of Pluto as seen by New Horizons. Courtesy NASA/New Horizons/JHU-APL

What’s at Work on this Distant Planet?
As Pluto comes into sharper focus through the eyes of New Horizons, we’re seeing more definition of the dark and light areas on this distant world. The lighter areas are very likely ice patches, but the dark ones are more intriguing. The most interesting image THIS week, shows four distinct markings that look like craters, or mountains, or… something on one side of the planet. What could be causing … Continue reading

MORE of Pluto in the Arts

Tommy Shaw, Todd Sucherman and Lawrence Gowen of the band Styx pose for a picture with members of the New Horizons science team, Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.  Members of the band Styx visited with New Horizons team members and Mark Showalter, who discovered Pluto's fifth moon, Styx, in July of 2012.   Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

STEM, STEAM, and PLUTO, continued…
The other day I posted in an article called STEM, STEAM, and Pluto, about how artists and musicians are showing a little Pluto love in their work. Just yesterday, the New Horizons team had a visit from the great band Styx, which is only appropriate since the name of one of Pluto’s moons is Styx. They had some major hits, including the song “Come Sail Away”, which was a theme song … Continue reading

The Two Very Different Sides of Pluto

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Color Images Show Amazing Features
Just when you thought Pluto couldn’t surprise you more, here come images of its two hemispheres, showing very different landscape markings. The image on the left is what New Horizons will see first during the encounter, and it seems to have a good mix of dark and light features on the surface.
That image on the right, though — whoa! What looks  like four evenly-spaced “somethings” along the limb (which is the … Continue reading

It’s the Pits On Comet 67P

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From Sinkholes to Jets
It’s quite a week for solar system exploration news. Pluto (which is way more than a planet!) continues to be on everybody’s mind with the upcoming close flyby of the New Horizons mission.  Dwarf planet Ceres is still getting the once-over from Dawn. And, today we’re starting to get more high-resolution images from the Rosetta mission’s OSIRIS camera as it scans Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  Check out this latest image, showing sinkholes and pits on … Continue reading