Have you ever seen a dwarf planet? Of the five within our solar system recognised by the International Astronomical Union – Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris – only Ceres can be considered bright and easy to locate. It reaches opposition in the constellation of Scorpius on 29 May at magnitude +7, an easy binocular object if you follow our guide.
Scientists planning the the next phase of NASA’s New Horizons mission, a robotic craft that completed the first exploration of Pluto in 2015, are going into the flyby of a frozen, faraway city-sized clump of rock on New Year’s Day 2019 armed with little knowledge of the target lurking around 4 billion miles from Earth.
Pluto’s “icy heart” is a bright, two-lobed feature on its surface that was discovered by NASA’s New Horizons team in 2015. The heart’s western lobe, informally named Sputnik Planitia, is a deep basin generally thought to have been created by a smaller body striking Pluto at extremely high speed, but a new study suggests a different origin.