Screaming Pluto Flyby

… isn’t a bad name for a band…

NASA’s New Horizons is screaming in (well, it would be screaming if there was some air) on Pluto this week. No brakes!  Can’t stop!

This is a historic first, the closest any probe has come to Pluto, and checks the last box on the “visit the planets” dance card. (From Sputnik to now, it took just under 58 years.)

If nothing goes wrong, we’ll get some pretty good images, snapping away like mad.

New Horizons Dashboard

In contrast to the quick and “whatever we can grab” Pluto flyby, Dawn is doing a slow and very thorough survey of Ceres. Currently in a 4400 km orbit, Dawn is finding a lot of interesting geography, which will have to be puzzled through in the ensuing years.

Marc Raymon gives us a nice run down on some of the high lights of the observations, and the implications. He also tells us a little about communication with Earth from that distance. (Hint to NASA PR people: this post is way more interesting than the continuing hoo-haw over “guess what the bright spots are”.)

Now Dawn will spiral yet lower, to gather much more high resolution data. This ion drive thing is awesome!

And out at 67P/CG, Philae seems to be alive, but communication to the orbiter is spotty.  It’s great to hear that the lander has survived (seriously good engineering job), though it isn’t clear we’ll be able to get much information back.

 

Space Saturday

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