New Horizons probe sends new pictures of Pluto
NASA's probe New Horizons has sent a new image of the dwarf planet to reveal some of its geology to the scientists. The picture which was taken from a distance of 5.4 million km and whose resolution was 27km per pixel, shows a vast band of patterned terrain stretching around the globe for roughly 1,500km. The probe will fly-by Pluto's surface on 14 July.
Pluto is no longer a planet!
Astronomers had long predicted the existence of a ninth planet; then Pluto was discovered and was accorded the status. Eventually, scientists found that there are other icy objects orbiting the sun which have the same composition as Pluto. In 2005, an icy object larger than Pluto in size was discovered and questions were raised. In 2006, Pluto was finally termed as a "dwarf planet".
New Horizons space probe is launched!
NASA launched New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe to study Pluto, its moons and other Kuiper belt objects on 19 Jan 2006. It escaped a close encounter with an asteroid, after which it flew past Jupiter at a distance of 2.3 million kilometers. It began its approach to Pluto on 25 Jan 2015 and was expected to fly by Pluto on 14 July.
New Horizons probe: highest launch speed record holder!
New Horizons which was launched at a speed of 16.26 km per sec (58,536 km/hr; 36,373 mph) had set a record for the highest launch speed of a human-made object from earth's surface.
What exactly can the New Horizons probe find out?
The probe which is equipped with optical, ultraviolet and infrared imaging tools will look for rings and more moons around Pluto which were not discovered earlier. Neptune's moon Triton and Pluto are considered to be icy siblings and some ice volcanoes were found on Tritons. So, the probe will look for those on Pluto. It will also try to locate snow on Pluto's surface.
Pluto may make a comeback as a 'planet'
New Horizon's principle investigator Alen Stern was hopeful that the probe's discoveries might help Pluto regain its status as a planet. Stern said, "The decision about how to define a planet should have been left up to the planetary scientists, not astronomers." Pluto's planetary status was snatched away in 2006 by International Astronomical Union (IAU).