Pluto: the last and final of the ‘original’ 9 planets of the Solar System to be visited by a probe. NASA’s New Horizons arrived at this tiny world at the edge of the Solar System earlier this week bringing into sharp focus for the first time. Science was a plentiful from every new image that was released, so here’s a quick recap for you, just in case you blinked and missed it…
In July of this year (2015), NASA’s New Horizons mission will fly past Pluto and its moons. It will map the surface of the Plutonian system in unprecedented detail, revealing craters and other surface features for the first time. In preparation for the deluge of newly discovered craters, mountains, crevasses and other surface features, Mamajek et al. discuss a naming system for Pluto and its moons.
Those of us who love astrobiology get really worked up about the lack of Earth-sized exoplanets found at Earth-like distances from their stars. All we want, we who hope for lots of extraterrestrial life, is a bunch of Earth-like planets doing Earth-like things so we can feel better about the odds for lots of Earth-like life in the universe.
Exoplanets with moons could mimic alien life-signs.
Pluto’s small satellites have very low escape velocities, which means that dust kicked up by impacts has a relatively easy time of escaping rather than settling back down to the little moon’s surface. Today’s paper looks at the fates of that dust.
The number of known moons of Pluto has now reached five. What are they like, and how did they get there? Kenyon and Bromley use numerical simulations to answer these questions and determine what else New Horizons may find in 2015.