|New Horizons probe, Pluto and Charon (image courtesy nasa.gov)|
1. What an exciting week for science! We have our first closeup views of Pluto as seen from the interplanetary space probe New Horizons. " New Horizons launched on January 19, 2006, from Cape Canaveral, directly into an Earth-and-solar-escape trajectory with an Earth-relative speed of about 16.26 kilometers per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph); it set the record for the highest launch speed of a human-made object from Earth." (source: Wikipedia)
2. Here are some sites to look at pictures of Pluto and find out more about the New Horizons probe.
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab - http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/
|Pluto, complete with landmark heart. (image courtesy nasa.gov)|
3. You'll always be a planet to me...
"Pluto is likely the largest and most-massive member of the Kuiper belt. Pluto's status as part of the Kuiper belt caused it to be reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006." (source: Wikipedia)
4. Pluto is designated a "Dwarf Planet"
"A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that is neither a planet nor a natural satellite. That is, it is in direct orbit of the Sun, and is massive enough for its shape to be inhydrostatic equilibrium under its own gravity, but has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." (source: Wikipedia)
This designation is being debated again now that more information is coming in about Pluto.
|Size comparison, Pluto, moon Charon, and Earth. (image courtesy nasa.gov)|
5. It takes about 4.5 hours for New Horizons to send communications back to Earth, and 4.5 hours for Earth to respond. After all, Pluto is 3 billion miles away. Want to know more about how we talk to such a faraway probe? Read all about it on Emily Lakdawalla's blog at The Planetary Society website.