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Tags astronomy , New Horizons , pluto

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Old 8th July 2015, 02:23 PM   #1
Corsair 115
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New Horizons at Pluto

Since the Rosetta/Philae and Dawn missions have their own threads, I thought it was time for the New Horizons flyby of Pluto to get its own thread too.

Only five days to go before the event. The glitch encountered a few days ago has been resolved and the spacecraft is back on track to resume normal operations. Things are already looking like they'll be quite interesting.

The latest on the mission: New Horizons Map of Pluto: The Whale and the Donut.
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Old 8th July 2015, 02:51 PM   #2
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I'm very excited for the flyby!
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Old 8th July 2015, 02:52 PM   #3
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So super cool!
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Old 8th July 2015, 03:35 PM   #4
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Between Dawn, Rosetta/Philae, and New Horizons, it's been a veritable feast of fun stuff this year for fans of astronomy.
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Old 8th July 2015, 03:52 PM   #5
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I never used to care much about local astronomy, which is a lot of geology.
But the past ten years or so has been one exciting thing after another.
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Old 8th July 2015, 08:13 PM   #6
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Next Wednesday, the PBS show Nova will have an episode about the New Horizon flyby.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/chasing-pluto.html

The Science Channel has been advertising a show as well, but I forgot the name of it.

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Old 8th July 2015, 10:20 PM   #7
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Here's a YouTube video of a Google Hangout from two weeks ago with some of the folks working on the project. One of the interesting things is that, while the flyby will be brief, lots of data will be collected and it will take roughly two years for the spacecraft to get it all transmitted back to Earth. So the mission will be going on for awhile after the visit. There's also been no determination yet as to what the next stop will be after Pluto.

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Old 8th July 2015, 11:05 PM   #8
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Very cool. Really looking forward to this.

It's really incredible that it will take two years for all the data to get to Earth. Lots of work for astronomers coming up in the next couple of decades!
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Old 9th July 2015, 05:31 AM   #9
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Nice photo from 8 million km out:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33459476

Quote:
"We will get pictures 500 times better than this next Tuesday, when we have our closest approach," Dr Spencer said.


I'm equally interested in what they will find out about the moons and their interaction with Pluto.

Quote:
The flyby occurs on the 50th anniversary of the first successful American pass of Mars by the Mariner 4 spacecraft.

By way of comparison, New Horizons will gather 5,000 times as much data at Pluto than Mariner did at the Red Planet.

New Horizons' difficulty is getting all that information back to Earth. The distance to Pluto is vast - more than 4.5 billion km - and this makes for very low bit rates.

It will take 16 months to send back all the science acquired over the coming days.
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Old 9th July 2015, 08:16 AM   #10
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One of the engineers on a podcast was discussing the problems associated with a 9 hour round trip time for commands to the New Horizons spacecraft, and I was amazed when he mentioned the bit rate for downloading pictures from Pluto. Here is the Wiki information.

Quote:
Communication with the spacecraft is via X band. The craft had a communication rate of 38 kbit/s at Jupiter; at Pluto's distance, a rate of approximately 1 kbit/s is expected. Besides the low bandwidth, Pluto's distance also causes a latency of about 4.5 hours (one-way). The 70 m (230 ft) Deep Space Network (DSN) dishes are used to relay data beyond Jupiter. The spacecraft uses dual redundant transmitters and receivers, and either right- or left-hand circular polarization. The downlink signal is amplified by dual redundant 12-watt traveling-wave tube amplifiers (TWTAs) mounted on the body under the dish. The receivers are new, low-power designs. The system can be controlled to power both TWTAs at the same time, and transmit a dual-polarized downlink signal to the DSN that nearly doubles the downlink rate.
ABC Star Stuff
Quote:
New Horizons survives glitch to stay on course
In what sounds like a script straight out of a Hollywood thriller, the New Horizons spacecraft suddenly lost all communications with mission control for 80 minutes over the weekend. NASA identified what caused the glitch and says the craft is still on track for its historic rendezvous with the dwarf planet Pluto on July 14.
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Old 9th July 2015, 07:04 PM   #11
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From yesterday: A ‘Heart’ from Pluto as Flyby Begins.
From today: Pluto and Charon: New Horizons' Dynamic Duo.
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Old 9th July 2015, 08:19 PM   #12
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Mmmmm....

From this: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/...?page=20150709

Quote:
...Charon is about 750 miles (1200 kilometers) across, about half the diameter of Pluto—making it the solar system's largest moon relative to its planet....
No it doesn't. Pluto ain't a planet! The Earth still owns it, b!tches!!
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Old 10th July 2015, 07:49 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Galaxie View Post
I'm very excited for the flyby!
Yeah forget those small rocks and bits of space ice. Pluto's the real deal, reclassification nonwithstanding.
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Old 10th July 2015, 07:50 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by foophil View Post
"New Horizons' difficulty is getting all that information back to Earth. The distance to Pluto is vast - more than 4.5 billion km - and this makes for very low bit rates.

It will take 16 months to send back all the science acquired over the coming days
."
Pluto has crappy ISPs.
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Old 10th July 2015, 07:51 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Olowkow View Post
One of the engineers on a podcast was discussing the problems associated with a 9 hour round trip time for commands to the New Horizons spacecraft
But was he wearing a sexy girls shirt ?
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Old 10th July 2015, 07:53 AM   #16
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I keep thinking "New Horizons" is a drug/alcohol rehab center, like "Passages, Malibu". In this case it would be where people where sent to chill out.
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Old 10th July 2015, 07:57 AM   #17
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Quote:
By way of comparison, New Horizons will gather 5,000 times as much data at Pluto than Mariner did at the Red Planet.
Quote:
It will take 16 months to send back all the science acquired over the coming days.
Quote:
at Pluto's distance, a rate of approximately 1 kbit/s is expected.
<mathmathmath>
So, 5 gigabytes. Why can't they just freakin' say that? We know what a gigabyte is. Why always with the comparisons to other things we don't have numbers for?

Originally Posted by Gawdzilla Sama View Post
I keep thinking "New Horizons" is a drug/alcohol rehab center, like "Passages, Malibu". In this case it would be where people where sent to chill out.
Or the "learning center" of a chic new age cult for rich white people.

Either way, Southern California.

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Old 10th July 2015, 08:01 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
Or the "learning center" of a chic new age cult for rich white people.

Either way, Southern California.
"Visit our new branches! Van Nuys, San Bernardino, Lodi, and Outer Solar System!"
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Old 10th July 2015, 08:01 AM   #19
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[anerdote* on]

I once posted a question about this mission on an astronomy forum; imagine my surprise when I got a very nice, detailed reply from Dr. Alan Stern, the principal investigator, himself. I was amazed that he would take the time to answer a random question from some random yahoo.

[anerdote off]

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Old 10th July 2015, 08:04 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by jhunter1163 View Post
[anerdote* on]

I once posted a question about this mission on an astronomy forum; imagine my surprise when I got a very nice, detailed reply from Dr. Alan Stern, the principal investigator, himself. I was amazed that he would take the time to answer a random question from some random yahoo.

[anerdote off]

* - "Anerdote" = a nerd anecdote
He sent a probe to Pluto. He's got time and patience to spare.
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Old 10th July 2015, 08:58 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Pluto has crappy ISPs.
It took 9 hours to find out I got ganked!
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Old 10th July 2015, 09:46 AM   #22
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Did they find Icehenge yet?

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Old 10th July 2015, 10:15 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by jhunter1163 View Post
[anerdote* on]

I once posted a question about this mission on an astronomy forum; imagine my surprise when I got a very nice, detailed reply from Dr. Alan Stern, the principal investigator, himself. I was amazed that he would take the time to answer a random question from some random yahoo.

[anerdote off]

* - "Anerdote" = a nerd anecdote
Don't be a tease, what was the question?



Originally Posted by Corsair 115 View Post
Who cares the image is vaguely heart shaped, I want to know what geological processes make those straight lines that create that huge rectangular shape?

Geology is so interesting and here they are telling us what pictures they see in the clouds and stars.
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Old 10th July 2015, 10:29 AM   #24
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I did a little engineering support for the refurbished RTG which is powering P-NH to the ninth planet* and beyond. Wow, time flies when you're a small spacecraft starting out on a big honkin' rocket. It's great to finally see the awesome science and beautiful images. Exciting stuff.


* Yes, I said planet. Old school!
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Old 10th July 2015, 11:29 AM   #25
Corsair 115
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla Sama View Post
In this case it would be where people where sent to chill out.

Well, it is cold on Pluto...


Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Who cares the image is vaguely heart shaped, I want to know what geological processes make those straight lines that create that huge rectangular shape?

Geology is so interesting and here they are telling us what pictures they see in the clouds and stars.

I think they may need to get a little closer and take better, higher resolution pictures as well as other measurements, then get all that data back, before they can do meaningful speculation on geological processes...
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Old 10th July 2015, 12:51 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Corsair 115 View Post
I think they may need to get a little closer and take better, higher resolution pictures as well as other measurements, then get all that data back, before they can do meaningful speculation on geological processes...
This is part of it. No sense overstepping the data. The other thing is, these projects rely on funding that is at least in part based on public perception--and the public just doesn't get excited by basic research. Give them a pretty picture, though, and you're golden. The hexagon on Saturn's south pole did as much good for science by being interesting to look at as it did by presenting new questions for us to explore.

Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy
So, 5 gigabytes. Why can't they just freakin' say that? We know what a gigabyte is. Why always with the comparisons to other things we don't have numbers for?
Because the public would then expect to see it as fast as they can download 5 gigabytes back home. Comparing it against other space missions provides a useful insight to the temporal aspect of the data collection.
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Old 10th July 2015, 01:46 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Don't be a tease, what was the question?
IIRC, it was something about what level of visual resolution the probe would be able to obtain. I was expecting a reply from a knowledgeable amateur; certainly not one from the principal investigator. Although, to be fair, it was a couple of years ago and I expect he probably had somewhat less on his plate then than he does now.
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Old 10th July 2015, 04:34 PM   #28
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I'm excited for this, but I do feel like some mystique has been taken away in the past decade. When I was a kid, Pluto was the oddball of the solar system, a planet all by lonesome past Neptune. Now, not only is it not a planet, but it is no longer alone. Its one of several dwarf planets on the edge of the solar system.

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Old 11th July 2015, 05:34 AM   #29
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Some surface features are starting to come in nicely. Picture in the link below:

http://nineplanets.org/news/surface-...ng-into-focus/
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Old 11th July 2015, 12:33 PM   #30
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From yesterday: Houston, We Have Geology
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Old 11th July 2015, 12:41 PM   #31
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Not clear enough, not really. There are a lot of ways for random noise to generate apparent patterns--see canals on Mars, for example.

Still, it certainly presents interesting areas to examine!
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Old 11th July 2015, 01:04 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Corsair 115 View Post
From yesterday: Houston, We Have Geology
From today: Pluto by Moonlight
I think I see a Starbucks.
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Old 11th July 2015, 01:29 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla Sama View Post
I think I see a Starbucks.

No, it's a penguin preserve.
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Old 11th July 2015, 01:40 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Corsair 115 View Post
No, it's a penguin preserve.
And the Joker and Riddler are nearby?
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Old 11th July 2015, 01:45 PM   #35
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The miles involved are in the billions - 3 or 4? It is amazing what clever peeps can do these days!
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Old 11th July 2015, 02:01 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Rum View Post
The miles involved are in the billions - 3 or 4? It is amazing what clever peeps can do these days!
Quote:
The New Horizons spacecraft will travel more than 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) on its journey to Pluto, its largest moon, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt beyond. This web site uses the Maine Solar System Model to help us to understand the distances and time involved on this journey.
The New Horizons Mission
pages.umpi.edu/~nmms/NewHorizons/mission.htm
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Old 11th July 2015, 06:33 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by sts60 View Post
I did a little engineering support for the refurbished RTG which is powering P-NH to the ninth planet* and beyond. Wow, time flies when you're a small spacecraft starting out on a big honkin' rocket. It's great to finally see the awesome science and beautiful images. Exciting stuff.


* Yes, I said planet. Old school!
Refurbished?

You're spending the jack required to send a probe on a multi-billion mile journey to the very edge of the Solar System and you can't spring for a new RTG? I can understand being frugal as much as the next guy, but seriously? Wonder what other used parts went into it's construction?
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Old 11th July 2015, 08:03 PM   #38
Grashtel
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Originally Posted by Mike! View Post
Refurbished?

You're spending the jack required to send a probe on a multi-billion mile journey to the very edge of the Solar System and you can't spring for a new RTG? I can understand being frugal as much as the next guy, but seriously? Wonder what other used parts went into it's construction?
A) The RTG is quite sufficient for NH's needs and NASA had it, would you prefer that they just let it burn out on a shelf? RTGs have a limited shelflife, the isotopes don't stop decaying just because they aren't being used.

B) IIRC there are issues with getting the material to build new RTGs due to the shutdown of the reactor in the US that makes them.
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Old 11th July 2015, 08:11 PM   #39
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NASA recycles a lot of stuff. On one NASA site I work in there are a few areas where they store the non-dangerous stuff (metal components, decommissioned tanks, and the like), and occasionally you'll see folks go in and get stuff they need. No sense letting it go to waste.
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Old 11th July 2015, 08:25 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Grashtel View Post
B) IIRC there are issues with getting the material to build new RTGs due to the shutdown of the reactor in the US that makes them.
Indeed, it's a major problem.
http://www.wired.com/2013/09/plutonium-238-problem/
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