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New distant dwarf planet found beyond Neptune

11 July 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers have discovered a new dwarf planet orbiting beyond Neptune. The object is roughly 435 miles in size, moving in a 700-year orbit that takes it more than 120 times further from the Sun than Earth. Designated 2015 RR245, it was found using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

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A ‘super Grand Canyon’ on Pluto’s moon Charon

24 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is home to an unusual canyon system that’s far longer and deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. As far as NASA’s New Horizons scientists can tell, the canyon informally named Argo Chasma has a total length of approximately 430 miles — one and a half times the length and five times the depth of the Grand Canyon on Earth.

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Pluto could still have a liquid sub-surface ocean

22 June 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft spied extensional faults on Pluto, a sign that the dwarf planet has undergone a global expansion possibly due to the slow freezing of a sub-surface ocean. A new analysis by Brown University scientists bolsters that idea, and suggests that ocean is likely still there today.

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Find Pluto close to naked-eye star π Sagittarii (Albaldah) in late June

21 June 2016 Ade Ashford

In the latter part of June, Pluto is best seen low in the southern UK sky around 2am local time and reaches opposition on 7 July. The dwarf planet passes less than 1/20th of a degree south of naked-eye star pi (π) Sagittarii on 26—27 June in the deep twilight of the UK, but Southern Hemisphere observers will have the best views.

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Pluto’s “Twilight Zone” reveals its secrets

3 June 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image mere minutes after closest approach on 14 July 2015. Seen here, sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto’s complex atmospheric haze layers over portions of the nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum, as well as mountains of the informally named Norgay Montes.

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New Horizons’ best close-up of Pluto’s surface

29 May 2016 Astronomy Now

A mosaic strip just released by the New Horizons team now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. The mosaic affords scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain on Pluto, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them.

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Close encounters of a tidal kind could lead to cracks on icy moons

26 May 2016 Astronomy Now

A new model developed by University of Rochester researchers could offer an explanation as to how cracks on icy moons, such as Pluto’s Charon, formed. Until now, it was thought that the cracks were the result of geodynamical processes, such as plate tectonics, but computer simulations suggest that a close encounter with another body might have been the cause.

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New Horizons collects first science on a post-Pluto object

19 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Warming up for a possible extended mission as it speeds through deep space, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now twice observed 1994 JR1, a 90-mile-wide Kuiper Belt object (KBO) orbiting more than 3 billion miles from the Sun. Science team members have used these observations to reveal new facts about this distant remnant of the early solar system.

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Dwarf planet Haumea’s lunar system smaller than anticipated

17 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Haumea, a dwarf planet on the edge of our solar system, doesn’t have the same kind of moons as its well-known cousin Pluto according to a new study. This is despite original evidence that suggested they both formed in similar giant impacts and adds to the mystery shrouding how these icy bodies formed.