Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Pluto's "Thick" Air Isn't Going Anywhere

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the forget-the-sleet dept.

Space 42

astroengine writes "When the proposition for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto was put forward, there was an air of urgency. The dwarf planet is moving away from the Sun in its eccentric orbit, so astronomers were concerned that the Plutonian atmosphere would freeze out and collapse onto the surface as fresh nitrogen-methane snow before they could get a spacecraft out there to observe it. But according to new research [arXiv], it appears there's little risk of a Pluto air freeze-out. From recent occultation measurements, it appears the atmosphere is becoming denser and more buoyant, meaning it will remain as an atmosphere all (Pluto) year 'round — 248 Earth years long."

cancel ×

42 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Can you imagine living on Pluto? (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 10 months ago | (#45063517)

(Refresh fedex.com web page)
Oh man, my package has been rescheduled to arrive "tomorrow".

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45063553)

Delivery Service no longer extended to dwarf planets, package will be available for pickup for the next 5 business days at the nearest FedEx location (Mercury)

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45063717)

Exactly!

There’s no point acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and discontinuance notices have been on display in your local planning
department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start
making a fuss about it now.

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#45064139)

How long are business days on Mercury? As the Mercury has a very strange synchronism between its own rotation and the orbit around the Sun, the same Sun constellation on the Mercury's sky reappears every 176 earth days.

Re: Can you imagine living on Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45064175)

It is not strange, it is the only way a planet that close to the sun will be able to remain in one piece. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_locking

Re: Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#45064339)

Actually, it's not tidal locking. It's more complicated. Mercury makes three turns while rotating twice around the Sun. And exactly so.

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#45067807)

Delivery Service no longer extended to dwarf planets, package will be available for pickup for the next 5 business days at the nearest FedEx location (Mercury)

Five synodic (solar) business days on Mercury? As in, 880 Earth business days? No need to hurry, then.

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (3, Informative)

beatljuice (735526) | about 10 months ago | (#45063587)

A week late isn't too bad. (Pluto takes 6. 39 Earth days to rotate on its axis.)

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 10 months ago | (#45063653)

FedEx is not bad there, but waiting on NASA to fulfill your AAA request is another matter.

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 10 months ago | (#45064145)

No, no, it's a Pluto week, which is about a month and a half in Earth time. :-D

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 10 months ago | (#45063607)

Meh. Only about 6.3 Earth days to make a Pluto day.

Getting your prison sentence increased by a year... ...that'd be a bummer.

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#45063801)

But most prison sentences are given in months, and months are based on the Moon's orbit around its (dwarf) Planet, and Charon orbits Pluto every 6.387230 days. So that would be a blessing, no?

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 10 months ago | (#45063857)

touché

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

BTWR (540147) | about 10 months ago | (#45067137)

This is why I love Slashdot

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 10 months ago | (#45065051)

Pluto is a dog, so it's calculated in "dog years".

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45063683)

A day on Pluto is actually about 6 days and a 9 hours long.

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45064091)

*whoosh* that was kind of the point

Re:Can you imagine living on Pluto? (1)

tokiko (560961) | about 10 months ago | (#45065097)

Pluto's solar day is 6.39 earth days long, so for Pluto "tomorrow" would just be similar to "next week" here on Earth.

While sitting on Pluto and trying to refresh the fedex.com web page hosted on Earth, however, would be significantly more frustrating. A one-way radio transmission between the two currently takes 3.66 hours (increase that to 4.5 hours when New Horizons finally gets there.) I'm pretty sure a TCP connection attempt is going to timeout before the handshake process finishes.

Of Course Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45063555)

Pluto's "thick" air is too much of a lazy lard ass to move.

And Pluto's air prefers the term "big-boned."

Denser AND more buoyant? (1)

xvedejas (1333013) | about 10 months ago | (#45063833)

Isn't "denser and more buoyant" a contradiction?

Re:Denser AND more buoyant? (1)

aevan (903814) | about 10 months ago | (#45064021)

In this sense it's that the atmosphere has a greater buoyancy force to oppose gravity.
i.e. XKCD's Cessna crashes 1 second later than usual :P

Re:Denser AND more buoyant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45066457)

Except that you'd expect an atmosphere that is "freezing out" to become more dense over time.

Re:Denser AND more buoyant? (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 10 months ago | (#45068027)

Buoyancy apparently has several contradictory meanings. "Buoyant" can mean "able to float" but also "able to cause things to float". Therefore, denser fluids are both more AND less buoyant. Does that help? ;-)

snow on a dwarf planet (2)

Covalent (1001277) | about 10 months ago | (#45064019)

It will be interesting to see if DH spots any snow...so far as I know we haven't spotted active snowing on any body other than Earth.

Re: snow on a dwarf planet (1)

Covalent (1001277) | about 10 months ago | (#45064051)

Damn you autocorrect. Meant NH - New Horizons.

Re:snow on a dwarf planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45064349)

Mars has carbon dioxide snow at the poles, and Titan probably has hydrocarbon snow in some form. I don't think the latter has been observed directly though.

Re:snow on a dwarf planet (1)

Covalent (1001277) | about 10 months ago | (#45066261)

Yes, but have we seen it snowING?

Further down someone mentioned Enceladus. That's a pretty good example, but I would argue that's not snow so much as volcanic (geyseric?) fallout. Not really atmospheric precipitation in the general sense.

Titan also appears to have snow and rain, though we haven't really seen it fall (though not for lack of trying).

Interestingly, on all of these worlds the substance being "snowed" is different. Water on Earth, Carbon Dioxide on Mars, Methane on Titan, and potentially Nitrogen on Pluto. I love science.

Re:snow on a dwarf planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45064521)

It snows on Enceladus [wikipedia.org] . Pretty much real water snow too.

Re:snow on a dwarf planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45070903)

It snows on the Saturn moon Enceladus. It has several plumes that spout water ice. Most of it gets sprayed out into space and forms Saturn's E-ring, but some it actually returns to the moon as snow.

A tag that's just plain mean.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45064099)

Oh, the indignity--using the tag "stillnotaplanet" for this story. C'mon, guys, you don't have to pick on this little 'old planetoid when it's down!

Hurry To Pluto Now! (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 10 months ago | (#45064125)

Before it turns into a tropical paradise with a race of 36-24-36 sex-starved tribewomen who live next to lakes of single malt scotch.

Re:Hurry To Pluto Now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45064787)

Now that's global warming we can all get behind!

Re:Hurry To Pluto Now! (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 10 months ago | (#45067219)

Meh, at a max surface temperature of 55K they can't be all that hot. And they would be complaining of the cold all the time.

I blame Global Warming... (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 10 months ago | (#45064821)

It appears the atmosphere is becoming denser and more buoyant,

Vacation time? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 10 months ago | (#45065129)

When the proposition for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto was put forward, there was an air of urgency. The dwarf planet is moving away from the Sun in its eccentric orbit, so astronomers were concerned that the Plutonian atmosphere would freeze out and collapse onto the surface as fresh nitrogen-methane snow before they could get a spacecraft out there to observe it. But according to new research [arXiv], it appears there's little risk of a Pluto air freeze-out.

So now the probe can stop for an extended break at Uranus. Check out the mall, have drinks with the Uranians, make fun of Neptune's name, get an instrument boom manicure, etc.

The NASA shutdown furlough may last that long anyhow.

thick air, dicke Luft (0)

danlock4 (1026420) | about 10 months ago | (#45066205)

English: "Thick air"
German: "dicke Luft"

govnerment shut down... but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45066309)

they can still plan a mission to Pluto! All those government employees who are currently at home, unable to earn money to pay the rent and bills must be thrilled to bits with this news!

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45066615)

at that distance from the sun, even less light will get true. Waste of money.

Denser will make landing easier (3, Informative)

Herve5 (879674) | about 10 months ago | (#45067933)

With a denser atmosphere (rather than none), it'll become easier indeed to brake and land.
When for instance you compare atmospheric entry and landing within the Earth atmosphere and the Martian one, the main difficulty on Mars is the much less dense atmosphere: aerobraking, transonic parachute deployment, end-of-trajectory thrusters all happen in a matter of dozens of seconds on Mars, while on Earth you have many minutes at least.

The denser atmosphere the best for safe arrival ;-)

(and that explains, too, the many crashes on Mars)

I participated in the Titan landing for Cassini/Huygens : I clearly remember the Titan atmosphere as a "thick" one, like on Earth (now we had other issues at the time, among others the terrible uncertainty on gas composition itself).
But I'm close to consider landing on Mars, though, is harder than on Titan.

How exactly will it be on Pluto, I hope to see ;-)

Re:Denser will make landing easier (1)

wooferhound (546132) | about 10 months ago | (#45070815)

The New Horizons mission is a Flyby, not a Landing . . .
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>