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Pluto News, The Kuipers and Beyond
December 21, 2014
On Pluto's Doorstep, NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens for Encounter
Laurel MD (SPX) Dec 10, 2014
After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles - the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target - NASA's New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation today for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system. Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., confirmed at 9:53 p.m. (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to "active" mode. Moving ... read more

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Waking Up on Pluto's Doorstep
It's hard for me to believe, but after almost nine years of flight, we are literally on Pluto's doorstep, on schedule, in good health, and on course. In fact, at the end of this week, on Saturday, D ... more
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Eris the largest dwarf planet in Solar System
Our universe is full of mysteries but there are a few things we know for certain. For instance, that the Earth orbits the Sun and not vice versa, or that there are eight planets in the solar system. ... more
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Pluto's Exotic Chemistry
My connection to Pluto and Charon is quite different from that of other scientists who write for the New Horizons website. Certainly I'm excited about the chance to visit and study objects in the ou ... more
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Clues Revealed About Hidden Interior of Uranus
Long believed to be one of the blandest regions of any of the giant gas planets, the southern hemisphere of Uranus indicates a flurry of previously unknown atmospheric phenomena, hinting at an unusu ... more
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New Horizons Set to Wake Up for Pluto Encounter
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft comes out of hibernation for the last time on Dec. 6. Between now and then, while the Pluto-bound probe enjoys three more weeks of electronic slumber, work on Earth is ... more
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Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission
Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency's New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit a ... more
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It's Just a Phase: Changes on Pluto's Surface
Cool some water below 32F and it freezes into solid ice; heat it above 212F and it boils, becoming gaseous steam. Pluto's surface materials have phase changes too. Nitrogen, methane, and carbo ... more
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Dawn reaches its seventh anniversary
On the seventh anniversary of embarking upon its extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition, the Dawn spacecraft is far from the planet where its journey began. While Earth has completed its repetiti ... more
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One Last Slumber
On Aug. 29 we put New Horizons into hibernation for the final time. This last hibernation lasts 99 days and ends on Dec. 6. It's a little hard for some of us on the mission team to believe that afte ... more
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Democracy has spoken, Pluto should be a planet
When the International Astronomical Union got together in 2006 and updated the criteria for classification as a planet, thereby downgrading Pluto from "planet" to the informal title of "not a planet," many inside and outside the scientific community were upset. The California State Assembly actually half-seriously passed a resolution denouncing the IAU for "scientific heresy." ... more
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Miranda: An Icy Moon Deformed by Tidal Heating
Miranda, a small, icy moon of Uranus, is one of the most visually striking and enigmatic bodies in the solar system. Despite its relatively small size, Miranda appears to have experienced an episode ... more
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Awaiting New Results on Pluto's Atmosphere
What is Pluto's atmosphere like? It seems like I've been wondering about that for decades! We've known so little for so long about Pluto's atmosphere - other than it's low-pressure, made mostly of m ... more
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New Horizons Crosses Neptune Orbit On Route To First Pluto Flyby
NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on Ju ... more
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From Pinpoint of Light to a Geologic World
I'm an astronomer and I've been studying Pluto as a pinpoint of light for over 25 years. It will be so exciting to see this little white dot turn into a geologic world in a matter of weeks. Wh ... more
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New Horizons Spies Charon Orbiting Pluto
Like explorers of old peering through a shipboard telescope for a faint glimpse of their destination, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is taking a distant look at the Pluto system - in preparation for ... more
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ALMA telescope sizes up Pluto's orbit
Scientists using a high-powered telescope in Chile have been able to measure Pluto's orbit precisely, to help with navigation as a US probe nears the planet in 2015. ... more
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    Putting It All Together
    The New Horizons mission will provide the first in situ investigation of objects in the Kuiper belt, making it a unique voyage of discovery. And it's unlikely we'll see a similar venture into the so ... more
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    In exactly one year, NASA's New Horizons probe will reach Pluto
    Exactly one year from today, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to the far-away dwarf planet Pluto - the icy pseudo-planet's first manmade visitor. ... more
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    Annual Checkout Makes for Great Pluto Preparation
    You walk up to the Restaurant at the End of the Solar System, ready to try that slice of "Pluto on ice" that you heard amazing things about. The chef behind the counter asks, "So, how would you like ... more
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    What If Voyager Had Explored Pluto?
    As I mentioned in my previous PI Perspective, New Horizons crosses the orbit of Neptune, the outermost planet explored by the Voyager mission, late this August. Voyager's flyby of Neptune was in Aug ... more
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    The PI's Perspective - Childhood's End
    New Horizons is now just a few days from emerging from its next-to-last hibernation. The spacecraft has been hibernating about 80 percent of each year since we left Jupiter in 2007, but that will al ... more
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    Final Pre-Pluto Annual Checkout Begins
    Horizons' annual checkout - its eighth since launch in 2006 and last before next year's rendezvous with Pluto - kicks off this week with some onboard subsystem housekeeping and navigation-tracking t ... more
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    Hubble Begins Search Beyond Pluto For Potential Flyby Targets
    After careful consideration and analysis, the Hubble Space Telescope Time Allocation Committee has recommended using Hubble to search for an object the Pluto-bound NASA New Horizons mission could vi ... more
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    Cracks in Pluto's Moon Could Indicate it Once Had an Underground Ocean
    If the icy surface of Pluto's giant moon Charon is cracked, analysis of the fractures could reveal if its interior was warm, perhaps warm enough to have maintained a subterranean ocean of liquid wat ... more
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