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(Astronomy) Pluto's New Moons

 
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adedios
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:34 am    Post subject: (Astronomy) Pluto's New Moons Reply with quote






Pluto's New Moons
Nov. 9, 2005
Emily Sohn

The first time that you learn about the planets, it all seems so simple. There are nine of them, including Earth. All orbit the sun. Then, you learn about moons, and things get a little more complicated. Moons orbit planets. We have one. Saturn has more than 45.
As soon as you've memorized the planet lessons in your textbook, however, you've got more work to do. The Hubble Space Telescope has just spotted two more moons around Pluto, adding to the one we already knew about. If the finding is true, astronomers will have to rethink what they know about the planet and about the Kuiper belt—a collection of small, icy objects that lingers way out on the edge of our solar system.

Until now, scientists had supposed that Pluto had just one moon, called Charon. This object follows an orbit 19,600 kilometers (12,200 miles) from the planet and measures 1,270 kilometers (790 miles) across. Charon is about half as wide as Pluto.

The new moons have been named S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2. The first one lies about 48,000 kilometers (30,000 miles) from Pluto and has an estimated diameter of 56 kilometers (35 miles). The second lies about 64,000 kilometers (39,800 miles) from Pluto and has a diameter of about 48 kilometers (30 miles).

For every 12 times that Charon goes around Pluto, it looks like S/2005 P1 goes around 3 times, while S/2005 P2 goes around twice. Based on this information, scientists suspect that the moons formed at the same time that Charon formed, when some massive object smashed into Pluto soon after the planet's birth 4.5 billion years ago. Chunks that flew off in the collision then became moons when they were trapped by the planet's gravity.

More observations are needed to confirm that the two objects actually orbit Pluto, but astronomers have reason to believe that they do. The same two objects also appear in pictures taken by Hubble 3 years ago.

After finishing with your textbook, keep watching the news. It's the only way to keep up with our constantly changing map of outer space.—E. Sohn


http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note2.asp

From Science News for Kids Nov. 9, 2005.

*************************************************************

Questions to explore further this topic:

What is the Kuiper Belt?

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note2.asp
http://www.nineplanets.org/kboc.html
http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/faculty/jewitt/kb.html
http://www.windows.ucar.edu/to....._belt.html
http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/pl.....y=Overview

Are there nine planets?

http://www.sciencenewsforkids......ature1.asp

What is Pluto?

http://kids.nineplanets.org/pluto.htm
http://www.kidsastronomy.com/pluto.htm
http://www.childrensmuseum.org.....pluto.html
http://www.johnshepler.com/articles/pluto.html
http://www.solarspace.co.uk/Pluto/Pluto.php
http://www.windows.ucar.edu/to.....pluto.html
http://www.lowell.edu/users/buie/pluto/pluto.html
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/pla.....ofact.html
http://www.seds.org/billa/tnp/pluto.html
http://www.enchantedlearning.c.....ets/pluto/
http://library.thinkquest.org/...../pluto.htm

Images of Pluto:

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/pho.....pluto.html

The Moons of Pluto:

http://www.seds.org/billa/tnp/pluto.html#charon
http://www.sciencenews.org/art.....5/fob1.asp
http://hubblesite.org/newscent.....s/2005/19/

What is the most remote known object in the solar system?

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp

GAMES

http://www.windows.ucar.edu/to.....games.html
http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/capture/


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:03 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 1:52 pm    Post subject: Pluto probe to be launched in 2 weeks Reply with quote

Pluto probe to be launched in 2 weeks

LAUREL, Md., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- NASA's unmanned first flight to Pluto is set for launch on Jan. 17 and if all goes well will be back with a load of scientific goodies in July of 2015.

The $700 million flight, dubbed New Horizons, will be not only the first flight to Pluto but NASA's longest mission ever planned in its quest to reach the farthest planet from the sun with the fastest spacecraft ever.

Thanks to that distance and Pluto's tiny size, even the Hubble Space Telescope has managed only the crudest images of the planet's mottled surface, the Baltimore Sun said.

It's mostly rock, water, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane, all frozen at minus 387 degrees Fahrenheit.

The mission's top scientist, Alan Stern, 48, of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., described Pluto as "a scientific wonderland for atmospheric scientists."
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if i remember it right, another planet [or moon?] was named after a filipina, a philippine science teacher in the visayas, nakalimutan ko na ang pangalan.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saida;

I am not familiar with planets or moons, but there are asteroids named after Filipinos: (And you are probably thinking about 13241 Biyo, please see below)


From Astronomy.com.ph;

All in all there are 6 asteroids named after 7 Filipinos. These are:

6282 Edwelda, after Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson, editors of Sky & Telescope magazine.
13241 Biyo, after Dr. Josette Biyo, a teacher who won an international research competition.
11697 Estrella, 12088 Macalintal and 12522 Rara, named after Allan Noriel Estrella, Jeric Macalintal, and Prem Villas Fortran Rara, three students who won in the Intel International Science Fair in 2002.
4866 Badillo, after Fr. Victor Badillo S.J., a pioneer of amateur astronomy in the Philippines.

http://home.astronomy.com.ph/?id=/200601/news1
http://www.astroleaguephils.or.....dillo.html
http://www.philastrosoc.com/wpress/index.php?p=18
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

adedios wrote:
Saida;

I am not familiar with planets or moons, but there are asteroids named after Filipinos: (And you are probably thinking about 13241 Biyo, please see below
All in all there are 6 asteroids named after 7 Filipinos. These are:
6282 Edwelda, after Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson, editors of Sky & Telescope magazine.
13241 Biyo, after Dr. Josette Biyo, a teacher who won an international research competition.
11697 Estrella, 12088 Macalintal and 12522 Rara, named after Allan Noriel Estrella, Jeric Macalintal, and Prem Villas Fortran Rara, three students who won in the Intel International Science Fair in 2002.
4866 Badillo, after Fr. Victor Badillo S.J., a pioneer of amateur astronomy in the Philippines.



oh yes, it's asteroid nga pala, and yes again, it's dr. josette biyo. at isa pang yes... i almost forgot that there were also named after those 3 filipino students. napanood ko sa tv yung interview kay dr biyo. she was so nervous daw during that competition dahil mabibigat yuing mga kalaban niya. i think she was alone then, at lalo siyang kinabahan when she had trouble with her computer. marami pa rin namang magagaling na pinoy!

thanks for this info angel!
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 4:58 pm    Post subject: Astronomers measure the most distant moon Reply with quote

Astronomers measure the most distant moon
Agence France Presse
Wed Jan 4, 2:02 PM ET



An international team of astronomers says the most distant moon in the Solar System, Charon, which orbits Pluto, is an icy rock that has no sign of an atmosphere.

They achieved the feat by observing Charon as it passed in front of a star last July -- an event that has been witnessed only once before in the past quarter-century.

Under this so-called occultation process, light from the star is dimmed and refracted as it passes through an object's atmosphere but is barely touched if the object has no atmosphere.

Using the high-powered European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescope located in the dry mountains of Chile's Atacama Desert, the astronomers determined that Charon has a density of about 1.71 of that of water.

That indicates the moon is an icy body, with rock comprising about half its volume.

The density is also very similar to that of Pluto's, and could back theories that the planet whacked into a large space object, causing a large chunk to break off and eventually be enslaved as a satellite.

The occultation also yielded a remarkably accurate measurement of Charon's size.

It has a diameter of between 1,206 and 1,212 kilometers (753.75 and 757.5 miles), give or take five kms (3.1 miles). It is almost half the size of Pluto's 2,300 kms (1,437 miles).

Pluto, discovered in 1930 by the American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, is the outermost of the recognized planets, although a new contender for that title emerged last year in the form of an object called 2003 UB313.

Charon was discovered in 1978. It orbits so close to Pluto, at a distance of less than 20,000 kms (12,000 miles) that some astronomers have wondered whether they should be classified as a double planet system rather than mother and satellite.

The pair circle the Sun at a distance ranging from 4.5 to seven billion kms (2.81-4.37 billion miles), and take 248 Earth years to complete a single orbit.

A mission by the US space agency NASA to explore Pluto and Charon is scheduled for liftoff later this month, with a launch window opening on January 17. The 700-million-dollar unmanned probe, New Horizons, will take nine years to reach its goal.

The two studies, headed by Amanda Gulbis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Bruno Sicardy of the Paris Observatory, appear on Thursday in Nature, the British weekly science journal.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 7:17 pm    Post subject: Pluto Colder Than Expected Reply with quote

Pluto Colder Than Expected

By Ker Than
Staff Writer
posted: 03 January 2006
06:29 am ET
http://www.space.com/scienceas....._cold.html

Earth-bound astronomers taking Pluto's temperature have confirmed suspicions that the planet is colder than it should be. It's thought that the planet’s lower temperature is the result of interactions between its icy surface and thin nitrogen atmosphere.

Using the Submillimeter Array, or SMA, a network of radio telescopes located in Hawaii, astronomers found that Pluto’s average surface temperature was about 43 K (-382 degrees F) instead of the expected 53 K (-364 degrees F), which is what the temperature of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is.

Unlike Pluto, Charon has no atmosphere, so its surface temperature was what astronomers predicted based on its geological makeup and reflectivity.

Pluto is located thirty times farther away from the Sun than Earth, about three billion miles, and receives only about 1/1000th of the light that our planet receives. Pluto’s surface temperature varies widely because of its erratic orbit, which can send it as close as 30 astronomical units (AU), or as far away as 50 AU.

An AU is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, about 93 million miles.

A popular planet

Pluto has been the focus of a lot of scientific attention lately. Its status as a planet is currently being debated since the discovery in July of an even larger object located even farther out in the solar system, in a region of space known as the Kuiper Belt. In October, astronomers announced the discovery of two tiny, new moons orbiting the planet, each one only 30 to 100 miles (45 to 160 kilometers) in diameter.

Astronomers have suspected since the early 1990’s that Pluto is colder than it should be, but they were unable to confirm their suspicions until recently because it was difficult to tease apart the heat emissions of Pluto from nearby Charon.

Charon is unusually large for a moon and scientists are still not sure how it and Pluto became paired. According to one hypothesis, Pluto was struck long ago by another body that was nearly identical in size, spinning off Charon as a result.

From Earth, Pluto and Charon appear about 0.9 arcseconds apart, and trying to tell them apart is like trying to make out the length of a pencil from 30 miles away.

The SMA is the first telescope able to make the required measurement. Other telescopes like the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico have higher resolution than the SMA, but are less sensitive to colder objects.

"We’re the first to have the combination of resolution and sensitivity to be able to do this experiment," said Mark Gurwell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a co-author on the study.

Anti-greenhouse effect

Astronomers think Pluto’s colder than expected temperature reading involves interactions between nitrogen ice on the planet’s surface and the nitrogen gas that makes up its atmosphere.

The two forms of nitrogen are in a constant state of careful flux: as Pluto moves away from the Sun, the nitrogen gas "condenses," freezing and falling back to the surface as ice. The opposite happens when Pluto is closer to the Sun.

Planets like Venus and Earth experience a natural greenhouse effect, where sunlight energy striking the surface is absorbed and used to heat the surface. On Pluto, the opposite happens.

"Pluto is a dynamic example of what we might call an anti-greenhouse effect," Gurwell said.

Instead of being absorbed and warming the surface, sunlight striking Pluto is used to convert nitrogen ice on its surface into gas. A similar process happens when humans sweat: the evaporation of sweat from the skin has a cooling effect because the evaporated water carries away the body’s excess heat.

The finding could apply to other planets in the solar system which have condensable atmospheres like Mars, or even to extra sola- planets, Gurwell told SPACE.com.

In the future, Gurwell hopes that astronomers will be able to make even more precise measurements of Pluto using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) currently being built in Chile. The ALMA is scheduled for completion in 2012 but early scientific experiments could begin as soon as 2008.

Gurwell expects that the ALMA will allow astronomers to see where on Pluto’s surface nitrogen gas is being generated and whether the atmosphere is spread out evenly across the entire planet or concentrated in hot spot like on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.

"We’re breaking new ground, laying the foundation for work that will happen in the future," Gurwell said.

The finding will be presented at the 2005 meeting of the American Astronomical Society that begins on Jan. 8 in Washington, D.C.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 2:39 pm    Post subject: Trip to Pluto to Take at Least 9 Years Reply with quote

Trip to Pluto to Take at Least 9 Years
By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press Writer
12 January 2006

It will be the fastest spacecraft ever launched, zooming past the moon in nine hours and reaching Jupiter in just over a year at a speed nearly 100 times that of a jetliner.

Its target is Pluto — the solar system's last unexplored planet, 3 billion miles from Earth. And the New Horizons spacecraft, set for liftoff on Tuesday, could reach it within nine years.

Pluto, a tiny, icy misfit of a planet — some say it's not a planet at all — neither resembles the rocky bodies of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, nor the giant gaseous planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. For years after its discovery 75 years ago, it was considered a planetary oddball.

But in recent years, astronomers have come to realize that Pluto's class of planetary bodies, ice dwarfs, isn't so odd after all. In fact, ice dwarfs are the most populous group in the solar system. Now, scientists have a chance to learn more about them and the origins of the planetary system.

"Just as a Chihuahua is still a dog, these ice dwarfs are still planetary bodies," said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., the mission's principal investigator. "The misfit becomes the average. The Pluto-like objects are more typical in our solar system than the nearby planets we first knew."

When the 7-foot-tall New Horizons spacecraft reaches Pluto as early as 2015, the spacecraft will study the ninth planet's large moon, Charon, as well as two other moons just discovered last year. The $700 million mission should provide scientists with a better understanding of the Kuiper Belt, a mysterious region that lies beyond Neptune at the outer limits of the planetary system.

Besides being home to Pluto, the Kuiper Belt is believed to hold thousands of comets and icy planetary objects that make up a third zone of the solar system, the rocky and gaseous planets making up the other two. Scientists believe they can learn about the evolution of the solar system by studying the Kuiper Belt since it possesses debris left over from the formation of the outer solar system. Depending on its fitness after arriving at Pluto, New Horizons will attempt to identify one or two objects in the Kuiper Belt.

"It provides for us a window 4 1/2 billion years back in time to observe the formation conditions of giant planets," Stern said. "This is a little bit about rewriting the textbooks about the outer planets."

A successful journey to Pluto will complete a survey of the planets that NASA began in the early 1960s with the Mariner program's exploration of Mars, Mercury and Venus by unmanned spacecraft. The best images of Pluto currently come from the Hubble Space Telescope, but they suffer from low-resolution fuzziness, making it difficult for scientists to interpret what they're seeing.

The 1,054-pound piano-sized spacecraft will be launched on an Atlas V. The rocket's makers, Lockheed Martin, experienced problems on another Atlas propellant tank similar to the one being flown to Pluto, forcing a delay of New Horizons' launch by several days to give the contractor extra time for inspection.

"Because we have such a long way to go, we put this small spacecraft on one of the largest rockets the U.S. has in its inventory," said project manager Glen Fountain of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

When New Horizons reaches Jupiter in 13 months, it will use that giant planet's gravity as a slingshot, shaving five years off the trip to Pluto. During the trip between Jupiter and Pluto, the probe will go into hibernation, closing down most systems to conserve power. It will send weekly "beeps" back to Earth, providing updates on the vehicle's condition.

If the spacecraft is unable to launch during its monthlong window that closes Feb. 14, the next opportunity is in February 2007, but that would push back an arrival at Pluto to 2020 since New Horizons wouldn't be able to get the gravity assist from Jupiter then.

Powered by nuclear fuel that will produce less energy than is used by two 100-watt lightbulbs, New Horizons is loaded with seven instruments that will be able to photograph the surfaces of Pluto and Charon and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure. Two of the cameras, Alice and Ralph, are named for the bickering couple from television's "The Honeymooners."

The spacecraft has a thermos-bottle design that will allow it to stay at room temperature. Tucked inside the probe will be a U.S. flag and a CD containing about a half million names of ordinary citizens who signed up on a NASA Web site.

Pluto and the Kuiper Belt have been full of surprises in recent years.

Scientists discovered in 2001 that binary objects — pairs like Pluto and Charon — litter the Kuiper Belt, and a year later they learned that Pluto's atmosphere undergoes rapid and dramatic global change. Last summer, scientists discovered Pluto's two extra moons.

Scientists expect more unexpected discoveries from the New Horizons mission.

Said Stern, "You can see why we think it's going to be like kids in a candy shop."

___

On the Net:

New Horizons Mission at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 2:45 pm    Post subject: Asteroid 4866 BADILLO Reply with quote

prof angel,

i have just watched PROBE on channel 2 three hours ago. i have learned from that show that the 75-year old Jesuit priest fr. victor badillo has never been given any recognition by the philippine government for all his contributions in astronomy.

unfortunately i failed to see the full interview by cheche lazaro. who/what agency or institution gives names to asteroids? it is so ironic that fr. badillo had to be recognized by an international agency/institution.

mabuti pa nga raw sina manny paquiao at precious lara quigaman at talagang pinarangalan nang husto ng pangulo at ng sambayanang pilipino.




From Astronomy.com.ph;

All in all there are 6 asteroids named after 7 Filipinos. These are:

6282 Edwelda, after Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson, editors of Sky & Telescope magazine.
13241 Biyo, after Dr. Josette Biyo, a teacher who won an international research competition.
11697 Estrella, 12088 Macalintal and 12522 Rara, named after Allan Noriel Estrella, Jeric Macalintal, and Prem Villas Fortran Rara, three students who won in the Intel International Science Fair in 2002.
4866 Badillo, after Fr. Victor Badillo S.J., a pioneer of amateur astronomy in the Philippines.

http://home.astronomy.com.ph/?id=/200601/news1
http://www.astroleaguephils.or.....dillo.html
http://www.philastrosoc.com/wp.....18[/quote]
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Councilor;

I guess it tells us something about society. Sad, isn't it? And if we do not change, the Philippines will continue in its downward trend in its standing among the countries of Asia.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 3:07 pm    Post subject: 'Tenth Planet' found to be a whopper Reply with quote

Published online: 1 February 2006; | doi:10.1038/news060130-7

'Tenth Planet' found to be a whopper

Large size of 2003 UB313 fuels debate over what is and isn't a planet.

Mark Peplow


The recently discovered 'tenth planet' of our Solar System is substantially larger than Pluto, astronomers have found.

For many, the discovery that object 2003 UB313 is about 3,000 kilometres across will remove any doubt that it deserves to be called a planet.

"Since UB313 is decidedly larger than Pluto, it is now increasingly hard to justify calling Pluto a planet if UB313 is not also given this status," says Frank Bertoldi, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany, and part of the team that reveals UB313's size in this week's Nature1.

When astronomer Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena unveiled 2003 UB313 to the world in July 2005, his team was already confident that the new object was at least as large as Pluto, and deserved the status of 'planet'.

But UB313's elongated orbit takes it almost twice as far away from the Sun as Pluto ever gets, making it very difficult to measure its diameter precisely. One clue to its larger size came from the fact that it is slightly brighter than Pluto; a larger mirror would reflect more of the Sun's light. But an alternative explanation could have been that UB313 is simply made of a more reflective material than Pluto.

Ice maiden

Using the Institute for Millimetre Radio Astronomy (IRAM) 30-metre telescope in Spain, Bertoldi's team has now studied the radiowaves coming from UB313, which reveal how much of the Sun's rays are absorbed and re-radiated as heat. Because very little reflected sunlight is emitted at these wavelengths, the object's brightness in radiowaves depends only on its size and surface temperature.

Based on its enormous distance from the Sun, UB313 is calculated to be tremendously cold: a staggering -248 °C. Bertoldi and his colleagues combined this value with their measurements of UB313's radiation to determine its reflectivity and size.

Although this first estimate of 3,000 kilometres may be out by as much as 400 kilometres, this still puts UB313 well ahead of 2,300-kilometre-wide Pluto in the size stakes, making it the largest body found in the Solar System since the discovery of Neptune in 1846.

The research also shows that UB313 has a reflectivity, or albedo, of about 60%. This is roughly the same as Pluto's, suggesting that the two objects' surfaces are made of very similar materials, such as frozen methane and nitrogen snow. Only a very frosty world could produce an albedo of 60%, says Brown.


Brown has also been trying to measure the size of UB313 by using the Hubble Space Telescope. Although he released preliminary findings on 25 January at a public meeting at Foothill College in Los Altos Hill, California, suggesting that UB313 was just a few percent larger than Pluto, he now says that measurement is wrong. "It was an extremely preliminary estimate," he explains.

A planet with no name

2003 UB313 is not the catchiest name, but unfortunately this temporary designation will have to stick until the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decides whether it is indeed a planet that warrants a name from classical mythology.

Since 1992, more than 1,000 similar, albeit smaller, objects have been found in the region around Pluto known as the Kuiper Belt, and astronomers estimate that there may be more than half a million still waiting to be discovered. As more of these icy remnants from the Solar System's birth turn up, Pluto blends into the crowd and its claim to be a unique planet grows slimmer and slimmer.

Some astronomers argue that Pluto should be stripped of its title, to become a Kuiper Belt Object like its orbital fellows. Others suggest that anything larger than Pluto found in the outskirts of the Solar System should also be called a 'planet', which would include UB313. "I'd prefer to keep Pluto as a planet, for historical reasons," says Bertoldi.

The IAU set up a committee of 19 top astronomers to come up with a workable definition for a planet that would rule UB313 in or out, but in November 2005 the group finally admitted defeat after failing to reach a clear consensus. The IAU has promised action later this year, but Brown is already impatient. "Imagine how you'd feel if your baby didn't have a name for seven months," he says.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:28 pm    Post subject: Researchers Describe Discovery of Pluto's New Moons Reply with quote

Researchers Describe Discovery of Pluto's New Moons
New Hubble Images Offer Best View yet of Distant Planet and its Three Satellites
February 22, 2006
Media Contacts
Michael Buckley
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Phone: 240-228-7536 or 443-778-7536

In the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Nature, a team led by Dr. Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., describes its discovery of two new moons around Pluto – a finding that made the ninth planet the first Kuiper Belt object known to have multiple satellites.

In a companion paper, also in the Feb. 23 Nature, discovery team members led by Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo., conclude that the two small moons were very likely born in the same giant impact that gave birth to Charon. They also argue that large binary Kuiper Belt objects like Pluto-Charon may also have small moons accompanying them, and that Pluto's small moons may generate debris rings that orbit the planet.

The Kuiper Belt is a band of icy, rocky objects and dwarf planets that orbit the Sun in the outer region of our solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune. It has been known since 1992; Pluto is its most prominent member.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the team originally discovered the moons in two sets of Pluto observations in May 2005. Their discovery was confirmed in new Hubble images taken Feb. 15 and released today.

"We used Hubble's exceptional resolution to peer close to Pluto and pick out two small moons that had eluded detection for more than 75 years," says Weaver, who also serves as project scientist for NASA's New Horizons mission, which is on track to make the first close-up reconnaissance of the Pluto system in 2015.

Pluto's previously known moon, Charon, was discovered in 1978, nearly half a century after Pluto's discovery in 1930. With diameters estimated to lie between 35 and 100 miles, the new moons, provisionally designated S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, are roughly 10 times smaller than Charon. They're also about 600 times fainter than Charon and 4,000 times fainter than Pluto, and hidden in the glare of nearby Pluto and Charon when viewed by ground-based optical telescopes. The scientists say this is the reason the moons evaded detection before Hubble looked for them.

The Weaver team writes in Nature that the satellites were easy to see in the Hubble pictures. "That was somewhat surprising because ground-based observers had been trying for more than a decade to find new satellites around Pluto," says Max Mutchler, from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and the first person to spot the moons in the May 2005 images. "But I felt almost certain even when I first saw them that they were real objects – not any sort of artifact – and that they were exhibiting orbital motion around Pluto."

That orbital motion – inferred from the different locations of the moons in pictures taken May 15 and May 18 – is what convinced scientists that they were indeed looking at moons and not stray light, cosmic rays or other Kuiper Belt objects that happened to be passing by.

"If we assumed the orbits were circular and in the same orbit plane as Charon, we could predict the exact positions of the objects on the second day," says Dr. William Merline, a co-author and discovery team member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). "When the objects on the second day appeared almost exactly where we predicted, we were convinced – no two artifacts could follow the rules of orbital physics that ‘real' objects must obey."

"The presence of the new moons in orbits with so many similarities to Charon's sheds light on the formation and evolution of the Pluto system, as well as on the process by which satellites are formed in the Kuiper Belt," says SwRI's Stern, who is principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

The new moons will be important targets of New Horizons, which was launched Jan. 19 to provide the first detailed reconnaissance of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The New Horizons spacecraft will fly within several thousand miles of Pluto and its moons in July 2015.

Weaver says the APL-built Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) telescopic camera on New Horizons should be able to probe the new moons and resolve surface features down to 600 yards wide. These observations build on primary mission science plans to characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon, map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure. New Horizons also will map the two smaller satellites in color and black-and white, and map their surface compositions and temperatures.

"We're getting four fascinating targets for the price of two," says Weaver. "The opportunity to explore the ‘bookends' of Kuiper Belt object size distribution, with Pluto and Charon at one end and P1 and P2 at the other, is an unexpected treat."

The team is already analyzing the new Hubble images, which confirm the results published in the Nature paper and provide the most detailed view yet of this fascinating mini solar system. Hubble is scheduled to take another set of Pluto images in early March.

"The more we learn about the orbits and physical properties of P1 and P2, the better we can fine-tune our spacecraft investigation and focus on the objectives that are impossible to achieve from Earth-based observations," says Stern.

The Hubble Pluto companion search team also includes Dr. Marc Buie of Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Dr. John Spencer, Dr. Eliot Young, Dr. Leslie Young and Dr. Andrew Steffl of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.

New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program of medium-class spacecraft exploration projects. Stern leads the mission and science team as principal investigator. APL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate and is operating the spacecraft in flight.

On the Web:
Hubble/Pluto System images: http://hubblesite.org/news/2006/09
NASA's New Horizons mission: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu
Southwest Research Institute News Release: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2006/Pluto.htm
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:52 am    Post subject: A Family in Space Reply with quote

A Family in Space
Emily Sohn

March 21, 2007

In a distant region of our solar system, scientists have found a group of related objects that have similar surfaces and orbits. It's the first "family" of objects ever discovered in the Kuiper belt, which is a vast ring of rocky and icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond Neptune.
One member of the family, called 2003 EL61, had already attracted attention because it is so unusual. The icy object is shaped like a squashed football. It is about as wide as Pluto, which is also part of the Kuiper belt. It even has two moons.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 8:37 am    Post subject: Pluto's Moon is an Ice Machine Reply with quote

Pluto's Moon is an Ice Machine
By SPACE.com staff

posted: 17 July 2007 04:20 pm ET


Slushy geysers on Pluto's moon Charon apparently coat the tiny world in ice crystals, making it something like the outer solar system's equivalent of an ice machine.

A very, very slow ice machine.

Water is likely trickling out at a glacial pace, researchers say, repaving Charon in a thin layer of 1-millimeter deep ice every 100,000 years.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....ysers.html
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 5:09 am    Post subject: Pluto, plutoid: What's in a name? Reply with quote

Pluto, plutoid: What's in a name?
By Jennifer Cutraro
June 20th, 2008

Former planet gets new label

Arose by any other name would smell as sweet, wrote William Shakespeare in the play Romeo and Juliet. But what would astronomers say about a planet by any other name?

It's a question astronomers have been talking about since 2006, when an international organization changed the classification of Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet." Now, the same organization has come up with a term to describe the new class of Pluto-like objects.

For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/view/ge....._a_name%3F
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