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NASA's Horizons Spacecraft To Probe Pluto Moon For Underground Ocean

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the finding-water dept.

Space 47

An anonymous reader writes NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is moving towards Pluto to explore Charon, one of Pluto's moons. The aim of the mission is to search of evidence of an ancient underground ocean on the moon. "Our model predicts different fracture patterns on the surface of Charon depending on the thickness of its surface ice, the structure of the moon's interior and how easily it deforms, and how its orbit evolved," said Alyssa Rhoden of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "By comparing the actual New Horizons observations of Charon to the various predictions, we can see what fits best and discover if Charon could have had a subsurface ocean in its past, driven by high eccentricity."

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Ocean of what (4, Informative)

rossdee (243626) | about 6 months ago | (#47245317)

Here on Earth we think of Oceans of water, but way out at Pluto's orbit it could be something esle (ammonia, methane, hydrogen, nitrogen...

Re:Ocean of what (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47245405)

Here on Earth we think of Oceans of water, but way out at Pluto's orbit it could be something esle (ammonia, methane, hydrogen, nitrogen...

Hydrocarbons? Maybe we can liberate them from their oppressive Government.... ;)

Re:Ocean of what (5, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47245449)

Either way it oort to be interesting.

Re:Ocean of what (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 6 months ago | (#47246605)

That would be funnier if Pluto were in the Oort cloud rather than the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt.

Yes, I know I'm being pedantic...it was still funny.

Re:Ocean of what (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | about 6 months ago | (#47246969)

Oh, just kuiper mouth shut if you're going to be critical!

Re:Ocean of what (1)

Xyrus (755017) | about 6 months ago | (#47247565)

Did jupiter or just yell at her?

Re:Ocean of what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47248483)

Too elliptic for my taste!

Re:Ocean of what (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 6 months ago | (#47247071)

Either way it oort to be interesting.

Hey, I'm from Baaahston and I don't get the joke, you insensitive clod!

Re:Ocean of what (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#47245533)

Here on Earth we think of Oceans of water, but way out at Pluto's orbit it could be something esle (ammonia, methane, hydrogen, nitrogen...

Given the makeup of the moon, they're looking for water. It's mostly water with some methane ices mixed in. Also, the article specifically mentions its a water ocean they're trying to prove existed.

quite a rapid flyby (5, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | about 6 months ago | (#47245329)

In order to get the probe there in the career lifetimes of the investigators and minimize decay of the power source and instruments, this probe has the fastest velocity of any probe so far. It took only eight hours to pass the Moon's orbit. That gives it about a three day window to make measurements before heading off into the Kuiper belt (and 2nd plutoid if they can find one soon).

Re:quite a rapid flyby (3, Funny)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 6 months ago | (#47246189)

In order to get the probe there in the career lifetimes of the investigators and minimize decay of the power source and instruments, this probe has the fastest velocity of any probe so far. It took only eight hours to pass the Moon's orbit. That gives it about a three day window to make measurements before heading off into the Kuiper belt (and 2nd plutoid if they can find one soon).

I don't fully understand that unit of velocity - can you frame it in Kessel runs per parsec?

Re:quite a rapid flyby (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246293)

I'm not surprised that you don't understand this. Maybe you should stick to the kinds of websites that like to endlessly engage in moronic circle jerks about a 35 year old film. I'm guessing anything that isn't explained to you in comic book fashion is too much to ask.

Re:quite a rapid flyby (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246985)

I'm not surprised that you don't understand this. Maybe you should stick to the kinds of websites that like to endlessly engage in moronic circle jerks about a 35 year old film. I'm guessing anything that isn't explained to you in comic book fashion is too much to ask.

This is Slashdot. This IS the kind of website that likes to endlessly engage in moronic.... (etc etc etc)

Re:quite a rapid flyby (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246363)

Correction: this probe has the fastest launch velocity of any probe so far.
The Helios probes had the fastest velocity of any probe so far (because it was falling towards the Sun), and Voyager 1 has the fastest velocity right now (because of velocity boosts from Jupiter and Saturn).
More info. [wikipedia.org]

Re:quite a rapid flyby (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#47246709)

New Horizons did get a gravity boost by passing near Jupiter, but Saturn wasn't in the vicinity like it was during Voyager's time. One of the motivations for the Voyager missions was to take advantage of the coincidental alignment of the 4 gas giants at the time so that probe(s) could visit one after the other (without large expensive boosters).

Voyager 1 didn't attempt Uranus and Neptune because it would mean sacrificing a close Titan pass. Thus, that was left to Voyager 2. Plus, there were concerns about Saturn's rings damaging a probe aimed Uranus's way. But Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1 ring analysis made the mission planners more confident. (Pioneer 11 was truly a pioneer in that it scouted the area in preparation for bigger probes.)

New Horizons is facing similar ring concerns, being that Pluto has enough moons to suggest a debris field or ring from prior collisions. They will probably fly through an orbit area that is in theory cleared out by Charon, but there are no guarantees. Since New Horizons mostly records first and sends later, because unlike Voyager it doesn't have independent instrument booms, if it's smashed by debris, we'll only have preliminary photos and analysis in pocket.

Re:quite a rapid flyby (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246661)

The only thing moving faster at this point are the regulars leaving this site. Someone needs to figure out how to minimize that decay.

My recommendation is to be able to sort comments based on the number of total votes received. This would allow good comments that don't subscribe to the party line to not be disappeared through excessive moderation. Also, down votes should cost more towards karma. It is too easy to find 2 comments to up-vote when really you just wanted to down-vote some other comments.

Couple of things I don't get here (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 6 months ago | (#47245445)

What I don't get about this is what exactly their mission is. The article mentions that New Horizons is the first probe to reach Pluto and Charon and be able to take pictures, and I understand why that would be important. However, what it doesn't mention is this - do they think Charon has an underground ocean because they've seen the surface cracks already with other methods? Or do they not know that the cracks exist and simply think that it might be like Europa because it has a similar composition? It seems like the real story is that New Horizons is going to be the first probe to reach Pluto, not that Charon might have an underground ocean if it turns out to be something like Europa.

Re:Couple of things I don't get here (2)

pjt33 (739471) | about 6 months ago | (#47245483)

Having RTFA (I'm sorry), they think that it's probable that way back when Charon's orbit around Pluto was elliptical enough to generate tidal forces which would have warmed its interior. They don't know whether the cracks exist, and if they don't find any then it puts an upper bound on the historical eccentricity of the orbit.

Strange writeup (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47245453)

The summary gives the impression that this is the probe's sole purpose and sole mission. In reality the probe will do a bunch of other things too. This story is about a particular group of people who are anxiously waiting for a picture of Charon.

Re:Strange writeup (0)

mrego (912393) | about 6 months ago | (#47246827)

I thought the aim of everything NASA does not is supposed to be reaching out to Islam. If this isn't the probe's primary aim then something is wrong. You're right, the summary stinks.

Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47245473)

Here on earth, we can't even find water for the millions of Africans who regularly die of thirst and starvation. Well done NASA!

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

muttoj (572791) | about 6 months ago | (#47245607)

???

You cannot blame NASA for the problems of the Africans.
You CAN blame the Africans as they are to busy killing themselves.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47245735)

Solve problems at home before poking your nose millions of miles away. I wasn't blaming NASA for their plight. I was blaming NASA for not using its instruments to find water for them, here on EARTH.

Re:Meanwhile... (4, Insightful)

MrLogic17 (233498) | about 6 months ago | (#47246111)

There's plenty of water in Africa. You haven't actually been there, have you?
I have. I've seen what what's there on the ground. There are endless well-drilling, housing, and food projects funded by the western world, and each one is a success. The problem is the local corruption and lack of rule of law. No matter how much established nations invest in the area, local corruption will un-do and destroy.

If you have a proposal for how NASA can fix this problem, I'm all ears.

Re:Meanwhile... (-1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 6 months ago | (#47248683)

And it is racist posts like this blaming the Africans for the crimes of white colonialism that will ensure that Africa never makes any progress. After all, you'd lose your cozy NGO jobs if that ever happened.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47249967)

Excuse me? I've been in Africa. The problem with the corruption goes beyond someone wanting a 10% cut of profits to avoid unseen accidents. What happens is that some official finds out that you are shipping essential equipment to your worksite (this is someone at the airport, immigration and import control, the local highway police commander), then they know that it's going to cost you more to have a delay that it is for them to get a little bonus. So they either go slow, put your items at the back of the queue, or just block off the one and only access road. Then they ask for some money to get the problem "sorted out". But of course, once one official has got his little bonus, the next person steps in line. It isn't just Africa. That's what the rest of developing world is like.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47250427)

It's funny that you ascribe to racism what is, in essence, a human (albiet sociopathic) trait. You should look into what happened in Somalia when the Australian government decided that their troops should remain under Australian command, and the US withdrew: the Somalian warlords sent their heavily armed troops in, they took all the supplies at gun point (vs the UN soldiers' sidearms) and then drove off.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47252317)

Yeah, cause the posts themselves are what's keeping Afrika down.

It's not them themselves fucking shit up around them all day erry day, it's the ebil white imperialists who keep on exploiting the poor butt-naked natives of the sunny continent.

You know what keeps them from advancing out of the cesspit situation they are now? Fucking liberals. Because blacks shouldn't try to achieve anything, no, it's the evil white devils that should do all the work for them.

As for this comment and the one you responded to being 'RACIST!1!' - grow some balls and cut the P.C. crap. P.C. is the reason why society is getting pussified, people unable to express their opinion, no matter right or wrong, because some random bloke might be offended. Fuck that.

There's a verified fool-proof method against different opinions on the net - get an axe and cut the damn wire (or smash the router, whatever works for you).

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246233)

We don't need NASA instruments to find them water. As a matter of fact, it's a political problem. In other words, it will never be solved.

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246265)

"Solve problems at home"

We've been trying to do that on and off for thousands of years and haven't gotten very far. While we shouldn't divert massive amounts of our resources into this kind exploration ~1% is quite reasonable.

Re:Meanwhile... (1)

AC-x (735297) | about 6 months ago | (#47246307)

You CAN blame the Africans as they are to busy killing themselves.

Talk about victim blaming, how about we blame colonial countries for pillaging natural resources, slicing land up into arbitrary countries, pitting ethnic groups against each other and generally forcing everyone to live in western style cities that are perfect for breeding malaria mosquitoes?

Re:Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47248447)

Because those people are dead. You can either keep blaming the past for existing or do something to fix the present. Hopefully make the future better while you're at it.

Yeah, every European and their cousin blazed through Africa like a 2 year old at a candy store. But at what point after the colonials have left do the people take some responsibility for themselves? I'm no European, but victim blaming only works when you blame the current victimizers.

Title (1)

Jiro (131519) | about 6 months ago | (#47245545)

If the article was about something in New York, would we see a headline describing it as "York"?

Re:Title (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#47250033)

By the time the probe gets to Pluto, it will be "Old Horizons". Hmmm, was there ever a New Yeller?

Why .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47245617)

Why didn't we probe Uranus?

Re: Why .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246255)

I tried, but then I realized you were full of shit.

So Pluto is a planet after all. (1)

bswarm (2540294) | about 6 months ago | (#47245621)

Definition of "Moon" Any planetary satellite. http://dictionary.reference.co... [reference.com]

Re:So Pluto is a planet after all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47246081)

Pluto is one of the 13 known planets (5 dwarves + 8 non-dwarves).

What an odd headline from The Register (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#47245703)

Pluto's MOON CRACKS must be PROBED for mystery ocean

It's like you don't think I'll UNDERSTAND unless you CAPITALISE the really important WORDS.

Or maybe they just like to capitalise any word that has a vaguely smutty alternative meaning.

-

And to samzenpus:

The aim of the mission is to search of evidence of an ancient underground ocean on the moon

One usually searches for evidence.

Re:What an odd headline from The Register (2)

starless (60879) | about 6 months ago | (#47245903)

Or maybe they just like to capitalise any word that has a vaguely smutty alternative meaning.

That's what they do.

(I find it rather annoying, but less annoying than their global warming denial articles.)

Re:What an odd headline from The Register (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47248469)

Cracks must be probed.

There's a joke in there a lesser man may enjoy. I'm that man.

KSP (3, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 6 months ago | (#47245875)

Orbit each planet.
Land a probe on each planet.
Land a probe on each moon.
Bring back samples from each location.
Colonize.

Until we do all those, we are cavemen with delusions of grandeur.

Re:KSP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47245913)

We just need to find a way to ignore life support requirements, and we're golden! :-D

Re:KSP (1)

goltzc (1284524) | about 6 months ago | (#47248947)

Orbit each planet. Land a probe on each planet. Land a probe on each moon. Bring back samples from each location. Colonize.

Until we do all those, we are cavemen with delusions of grandeur.

At least we have really nice caves these days.

Obligatory (0)

hduff (570443) | about 6 months ago | (#47246469)

Why isn't it probing Uranus?

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47250927)

It's full of gas.

But .... (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 months ago | (#47256917)

I thought Pluto was destroyed by Neil deGrasse Glactus.
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