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Latest New Horizons images of Pluto and Charon delight and amaze

10 September 2015 Astronomy Now

New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity. Images downlinked in the past few days reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows oozing out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys possibly carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface.

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Extended haze in Pluto’s atmosphere

25 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Backlit by the Sun, Pluto’s atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo in this image taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometres) from the dwarf planet.

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New Horizons discovers flowing ices on Pluto

25 July 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s New Horizons mission has found evidence of exotic ices flowing across Pluto’s surface, at the left edge of its bright heart-shaped area. New close-up images from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) reveal signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists hoped to find but didn’t expect.

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New Horizons discovers frozen plains in Pluto’s ‘heart’

17 July 2015 Astronomy Now

A new close-up image of Pluto from New Horizons reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the centre-left of the heart feature, informally named “Tombaugh Regio” (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

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Close-up of Charon’s ‘Mountain in a Moat’

17 July 2015 Astronomy Now

In a tantalising preview of what the surface of Pluto’s largest moon will look like in sharper future close-ups from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, this image from 1.5 hours before closest approach shows a depression with a peak in the middle.

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Pluto: the ice plot thickens

16 July 2015 Astronomy Now

The latest spectra from New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface of Pluto. Methane ice in the dwarf planet’s north polar cap is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice.

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Pluto and Charon as never seen before

15 July 2015 Stephen Clark

A spectacular sampling of imagery from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveals mountains and water ice bedrock on Pluto, an active crust on its largest moon Charon and the first resolved views of the icy world’s tiny mini-moons.

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Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting 2015 – report 4

9 July 2015 Astronomy Now

On the final day of NAM2015, science writer Kulvinder Singh Chadha investigates a new model that generates accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s 11-year heartbeat, suggesting that solar activity could fall by 60 percent during the 2030s to ‘mini ice age’ conditions. Kulvinder also looks back at the lighter moments and highlights of a successful conference.

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A “heart” from Pluto as New Horizons’ flyby begins

9 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Now just five days away from its close encounter with dwarf planet Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beams back the first image to be received since the 4 July anomaly that sent the spacecraft into safe mode, indicating that all systems appear to be functioning normally. The flyby sequence of science observations is officially underway.