P-8 days (6 July, 2015)

Earlier this afternoon (July 6) the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory released three new images of Pluto. Taken on July 1 and July 3, the spacecraft was at a distance of 9.2 and 7.8 million miles, respectively.

The three images, taken with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, show over two-thirds of Pluto’s surface, including the hemisphere that will be imaged in high definition during next week’s flyby. 

Created using data gathered recently by the RALPH instrument, Pluto’s reddish-brown hue is clearly visible in the true-color image. This confirms previous observations that showed significant color differences in Pluto and Charon’s surface. 

The official website of the New Horizons mission can be seen here.
How far are we exactly until the 7:49 am EDT flyby of Pluto on July 14? Click here for the official countdown clock.


Closest Ever Images of Pluto Reveal Mysterious Dots

There’s something odd going on along Pluto’s equator.

by Bec Crew

As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft draws ever closer to our favourite icy dwarf planet, it’s taken what are now the closest ever images of Pluto’s distinctly beige surface. Thanks to these images, we can now see for the first time a series of very large and evenly spaced dark spots running along its equator.

The source of the spots isn’t clear, and the team at NASA are intrigued by how they came to be so consistently sized and spaced. NASA reports that each of them is 480 kilometres (300 miles) in diameter, which is about the size of the state of Missouri. “It’s a real puzzle - we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said in a press release

(read more Science Alert)

images: NASA

Astronomers Debut Vision For Future Space Telescopes

In a meeting today at the American Museum of Natural History, members of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) presented a roadmap to a powerful space observatory that would allow for greater exploration of planets outside of our solar system, including signs of life.

At its heart is AURA’s vision for a High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST), described by some as a “super-Hubble,”that could improve on that storied telescope’s capabilities by a factor of more than 100. The HDST would be the centerpiece of a space observatory that would also host a suite of specialized instruments, including coronagraphs that can block light from stars and allow astronomers to glimpse nearby objects such as exoplanets.

Read more on the Museum blog