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New findings on Pluto and its moons from New Horizons

20 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Five months after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, knowledge about this distant system continues to unfold, yet the spacecraft is less than halfway through transmitting data about the Pluto system to Earth. New Horizons science team members presented the latest findings at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) autumn meeting in San Francisco.

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Pluto’s close-up, now in colour

12 December 2015 Astronomy Now

This enhanced colour mosaic combines some of the sharpest views of Pluto that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its 14 July flyby, revealing features smaller than half a city block on the dwarf planet’s surface. The wide variety of cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains seen here gives scientists and the public alike a breathtaking, super-high-resolution colour window into Pluto’s geology.

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New Horizons returns first, best images of Pluto

4 December 2015 Astronomy Now

It is almost five months since New Horizons’ epic encounter with Pluto, but the captured images and data will stream back to Earth across 3 billion miles of interplanetary space for a further 11 months. The first in a series of the best close-ups of the dwarf planet that humans may see for decades have been released, obtained when the spacecraft was just 15 minutes before closest approach during the 14 July flyby.

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New Horizons finds possible ice volcanoes on Pluto

9 November 2015 Astronomy Now

From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. The two cryovolcano candidates are large features measuring tens of miles across and several miles high.

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New Horizons returns full view of Pluto’s stunning crescent

30 October 2015 Astronomy Now

In September, the New Horizons team released a stunning but incomplete image of Pluto’s crescent. Thanks to updated processing work by the science team, New Horizons is releasing the entire, breathtaking image of Pluto. The team also released images showing extended mapping of the dwarf planet’s “heart” feature and young craters on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

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Pluto’s puzzling patterns and pits

17 October 2015 Astronomy Now

It seems that the more we see of Pluto, the more fascinating it gets. This latest image, from the heart of Pluto’s heart feature, shows the plains’ enigmatic cellular pattern as well as unusual clusters of small pits and troughs. Adding to the intrigue is that even at this resolution of 250 metres, no impact craters are seen, testifying to the region’s extreme geologic youth.

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New Horizons team publishes first research paper on Pluto findings

15 October 2015 Astronomy Now

The New Horizons team described a wide range of findings about the Pluto system in its first research paper published today — just three months after NASA’s historic first exploration of the dwarf planet. New Horizons has revealed a degree of diversity and complexity on Pluto and its moons that few expected in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system.

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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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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.