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Dwarf Planet Ahoy! Spacecraft Spies Pluto and Charon

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the i'm-way-too-excited-for-this-probe-to-reach-pluto dept.

Space 28

astroengine writes "As NASA's New Horizons probe powers through interplanetary space, it's keeping a careful eye forward, watching its target gradually loom larger on the proverbial celestial horizon. But earlier this month the spacecraft spotted something right next to Pluto — a pixelated Charon, the dwarf planet's largest moon. 'The image itself might not look very impressive to the untrained eye, but compared to the discovery images of Charon from Earth, these 'discovery' images from New Horizons look great!' said New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD. 'We're very excited to see Pluto and Charon as separate objects for the first time from New Horizons.'"

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28 comments

Privacy (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 9 months ago | (#44243439)

So the NSA isn't content with spying all over the earth, they now also spy on Pluto and Charon. No, I'm not going to let the extra A after the N fool me. ;-)

It's actually an egg in space! (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44243463)

Actually it's an Angry Bird's egg tossed at Pluto.

Re:It's actually an egg in space! (1)

BergZ (1680594) | about 9 months ago | (#44243967)

"Dwarf Planet" could be a cool name for a sci-fi sequel to "Dwarf Fortress".

Re:It's actually an egg in space! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44244697)

"Dwarf Planet" could be a cool name for a sci-fi sequel to "Dwarf Fortress".

Of course, at the rate it's being developed, you'd stand a better chance of being able to construct your own post-Neptunian probe and see it through launch and end-of-life before DF is finished.

Re:It's actually an egg in space! (1)

kelarius (947816) | about 9 months ago | (#44244753)

"Dwarf Planet" could be a cool name for a sci-fi sequel to "Dwarf Fortress".

Yeah, and here's how it would go:
You fire up the game and it immediately displays "Your settlers die a horrible death in a vacuum, wondering how the hell they got into space from their island"

Re:It's actually an egg in space! (2)

tnk1 (899206) | about 9 months ago | (#44244935)

You mean:

Slaves to Armok, God of Blood
Chapter III: Dwarf Planet

There will be Space Elves and they will be even bigger jerks than the ones in Dwarf Fortress.

Oh wait, they already wrote that game, it's called Warhammer 40K.

That's no moon (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 9 months ago | (#44243477)

It's a space station.

Re:That's no moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44244925)

I never got that line in Star Wars. Weren't they flying through interstellar space at the time? I suppose they might have thought it was a rogue, but technically if it's not orbiting something, it's not a moon but a small planetoid.

Re: That's no moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44245343)

You forget that they were flying to Alderaan, not in the middle of nowhere

Chuck Norris (0)

vikingpower (768921) | about 9 months ago | (#44243485)

roundhouse-kicked a bunch of soldiers from the Civil War into Orbit. That is Pluto. The pixel nearby is their lieutenant.

Just goes to show (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 9 months ago | (#44243549)

these 'discovery' images from New Horizons look great! [..] We're very excited to see Pluto and Charon as separate objects for the first time from New Horizons.

Not everone gets a boner from the same things that give an astronomer one.

Re:Just goes to show (1)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44243757)

True, especially when it is only going to get better if they can just keep their pants on (to extend the metaphor).

This represents a major milestone on the spacecraft’s 9½-year journey to conduct the initial reconnaissance of the Pluto system

A couple pixels worth of separation hardly seems all that significant against a flood of noise. Ring we when they get close enough to see surface detail on either
Pluto or Charon or some of the larger objects in the Kuiper Belt.

Don't tell the NSA (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 9 months ago | (#44243553)

They might find the lack of communications coming from those locations to indicate suspicious activity...

It is NOT powering through interplanetary space (5, Informative)

Alain Williams (2972) | about 9 months ago | (#44243637)

It is drifting, continuing it's journey because of its momentum: launched on 19 January 2006 ... velocity of about 16.26 km/s after its last engine was shut down [wikipedia.org]. OK: powering reads more dramatically, but is wrong.

Re:It is NOT powering through interplanetary space (2)

dmbasso (1052166) | about 9 months ago | (#44243771)

"power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed." -- from Wikipedia

[pedantic mode on]
It is receiving energy from solar wind, transforming it to motion... therefore it is actually powering, even if at an insignificant rate.

Re:It is NOT powering through interplanetary space (2)

peragrin (659227) | about 9 months ago | (#44244069)

oh don't forget about internal heating. Internal heating has been slightly altering Voyager's trajectory for the last decade.

Re:It is NOT powering through interplanetary space (1)

Tim the Gecko (745081) | about 9 months ago | (#44246251)

Meanwhile the Dawn probe is powering through space using its ion drive. It's scheduled to get to Ceres a few months before New Horizons flies past Pluto. Here's the current position [nasa.gov], and there's also an interesting journal [nasa.gov].

As well as space probes seeing Pluto and Ceres, 2015 should be when the LHC is turned up to higher power, so it could be a good year for science news.

Re:It is NOT powering through interplanetary space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44246765)

New Horizons is the first long range interplanetary probe which managed to sneak up on me. The Pluto bypass is already in 2015!

That term is offensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44243651)

They prefer to be called "little planets."

Re:That term is offensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44244795)

If a "dwarf" is a "little person", I think the proper translation would be "little person planets." Much better!

ME (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44243879)

Beware... Mass Relay ahead!

New Horizons rehersals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44243891)

This is just an amusing PR opportunity. They had the camera trained on Pluto during a rehearsal for the flyby.

"New Horizons" (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about 9 months ago | (#44244153)

Greetings! We come in peace to offer you affordable health insurance, management consulting, and organic gluten-free pasta!

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