For two days only, buy one of our limited edition Robotic Spacecraft Series Prints and get the full suite of vinyl stickers for free. This is a total savings of $24 and would serve as a great stocking stuffer to follow the presentation of the print.
The images coming back so far from Pluto look incredible. For the first time since Voyager uncovered exactly how exotic the moons of Jupiter really were — we are seeing things at Pluto that few saw coming. Some images show Pluto looking like a real-life version of a sci-fi illustration from the 1960s, with all kinds of lines, circles and spots of which we still know very little about.
Shown above is the Chop Shop Studio poster celebrating New Horizons at Pluto and is being updated almost every day when new images are released from the mission. This is the third update from July 11 data. The design along with two other missions is being crowd-funded on Kickstarter right now and you can still vote on which missions make the cut for posters #8 and #9.
There is so little to see here, but to think that New Horizons arrives at this impossibly distant world next year is unreal. Other than some fairly minor bodies, after Pluto and Ceres are visited in 2015 — every major target of interest in the solar system that most of us grew up with will have been visited at least once by robotic spacecraft.
Recent Hubble images of Pluto are showing us a world that may be unexpectedly active on the surface. Such a small object so far away that takes so very long to revolve around the sun should not have very many ways to exercise such rapid changes upon its surface. Scientists studying Pluto say that the color shape shifting seen in just two years is shockingly dramatic and they know these changes are not some image artifact as Charon (Pluto’s dwarf planet partner) remains unchanged during the same period. Plainly, there is something happening on Pluto that is not taking place on another nearby body.
I expected the arrival of New Horizons at Pluto in 2015 to reveal to us another grey frozen cratered world, but instead… the encounter looks like it might be quite a bit more exciting than expected. I cannot wait to see this black, orange and active world up-close and hopefully New Horizons will also reveal to us what processes could possibly be causing such changes to take place. See Centauri Dreams for more.
Just for old times sake, I made the effort to post some kind of imagery of Pluto to complete the “classic” planetary set most of us have grown up with. For years scientists have pressed NASA to prioritize a mission to the only planet left in the solar system that has yet to be visited by any kind spacecraft and finally one was approved. Lucky for Pluto (and us) that the New Horizons mission was launched in January and is on its way to a rendezvous with Pluto in 2015. In a strange turn of events (only a few short months after launch) Pluto was demoted from planetary status to dwarf planet status… which politically may have nixed the entire mission as I am sure some of the budget hawks that make these kinds of decisions were convinced of the mission's importance by others stressing that it was the sole unvisited planet in the solar system. However, now scientists are excited that a new mission is already on its way to visit a whole new class of planetary bodies for the first time. This mission also expects to be able to re-route New Horizons to rendezvous with additional kuiper-belt objects after its initial Pluto mission. These targets have yet to be announced as scientists expect that some of these targets may not have even been discovered as of this time. Imagine how exciting it will be for the discoverer of a new planetary body to find out that there is already a mission on its way to explore the newly discovered object.