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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 12:45 am 
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If all goes well, the space probe New Horizons will fly by Pluto and Charon next Tuesday, producing high-resolution colour images and other data or great interest. It has already returned images of Pluto that are about as detailed as the pictures we had of Mars before Viking.

Pluto is quite reddish: strikingly different in tint from grey Charon, perhaps like Triton.

NASA posts results as they become available at Latest Images from New Horizons.

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Last edited by Agemegos on Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 12:56 am 
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And the latest raw images can be found at: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/soc/Pluto-Encounter/index.php

They had a bit of a hiccup with a safe-mode scare due to a bad command on the 4th, but it looks like everything is fixed now and its shouldn't happen again.

To say I am excited about seeing Pluto up close would be the understatement of the century - I've been waiting for this since the 1989 Neptune flyby!

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 7:48 pm 
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Yep, very exciting.

I figured the reddish color was due to the Methane. There was speculation a few years ago that as Pluto reached Perihelion, it would sublimate some Methane and have a very thin atmosphere that would then condense back into a solid as it moved away from the sun again (which is doing now I think).

Charon is likely too small to retain that Methane in gaseous form so doesn't get the staining.

OR they just grew up in different parts of the Kuiper Belt...

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:04 pm 
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New pic! It's much better resolution than previous ones due to the 4-day gap in data from the safe mode hiccup.


Image

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:20 pm 
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Methane ice is white, isn't it? There'd have to be some photochemical reactions that go on in gaseous methane that produce branched, unsaturated organic compounds that then freeze out.

Pluto looks a bit like Triton (which is probably a captured KBO). What's going on there?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 10:46 pm 
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Apparently irradiated methane is pink/brown, which is why Pluto's that colour (and they've definitely detected methane there using in instruments on NH already).

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:50 am 
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EDG wrote:
Apparently irradiated methane is pink/brown

Yes. Irradiated with UV at the Lyman-alpha wavelength, methane vapour reacts to form larger-molecule hydrocarbons, but solid methane does not. It could therefore be the case that Pluto has a thin superficial layer of reddish gunk, the like of which has not formed on Charon because methane vapour escapes its weaker gravity.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:55 pm 
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The scientists have apparently known for decades that Pluto was reddish in color, and the picture below apparently is proof, being an amalgam of the camera and the color imager on New Horizons. If I recall correctly, it's caused by the same process that makes Titan pinkish, in that solar radiation combines with Methane and produces tholins which rain down on the surface. Several other dwarf planets also have been found to have a similar color.

EDIT: I just realized EDG said essentially the same thing, in fewer words. Ah well. Enjoy the picture. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 4:27 pm 
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Latest image (taken on the 9th July)! Definitely starting to see some geology on Pluto now... http://bit.ly/1MmAATR

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:33 pm 
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This'll be our best view of the sub-Charon hemisphere of Pluto. Better photos of the other side will be coming soon!
http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/new-h ... ling-spots

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