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With New Horizons Spacecraft a Year Away, What We Know About Pluto

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the where-the-mi-go-and-the-terran-federation-play dept.

NASA 128

An anonymous reader writes In one year, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto after over 8 years of travel. "Not only did we choose the date, by the way, we chose the hour and the minute. And we're on track," says Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission. As the New Horizons spacecraft gets closer to Pluto, we will begin getting the clearest images we've ever gotten. "A great deal of planning went into this mission. But in case you're wondering, the New Horizons team did not plan for Pluto to be downgraded to a dwarf planet in the same year as the launch. That didn't change anything for Alan Stern. Some planetary scientists still dispute Pluto's planet status, and Stern says he'll always think of Pluto as a planet. Either way, it's a distant realm ripe for exploration. Scientists don't know exactly what they will see there. And that's the exciting part. 'When we first sent missions to Jupiter, no one expected to find moons that would have active volcanoes. And I could go down a long list of how often I've been surprised by the richness of nature,' Stern says."

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We know it's a Goddamned planet (5, Funny)

sandbagger (654585) | about 4 months ago | (#47448905)

Who wants to fight?

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

Cardoor (3488091) | about 4 months ago | (#47448917)

wish i had some mod points right now.. cracked me up.. thanks!

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47448963)

Sandbagger for President.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47448967)

The appropiate answer:

http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/200/420/BRTky.jpg?1321408042

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47448995)

That's one of the reasons Neil deGrasse Tyson earned Sheldon's wrath: www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3DfwFZZXDQ

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1, Insightful)

bunratty (545641) | about 4 months ago | (#47449083)

It is what it is, no matter what you call it.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

xevioso (598654) | about 4 months ago | (#47449641)

So...what is it? It's certainly something other than just "is".

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450675)

It's an object orbiting the outer solar system. Making up silly human names for it doesn't matter. When the human race is goen and bauried it will continue to orbit is merry way around.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449167)

You know, it's funny, as someone who grew up with nine planets including Pluto, I never understood this desire to keep Pluto a planet. Even an elementary school student could see it was a bit of an oddball compared to the other eight, with a highly eccentric and tilted orbit, a dimunitive size, and recurring announcements every few years of possible discovery of other tiny planet like things out in a similarly distant orbit. I was almost relieved when it was got a new categorization. Unless you're somehow tied to the idea of "nine" as being a special number for our count of planets, but even then, discovering new planets would have changed that number anyway, just in an upwards direction.

But either way, sending a probe to Pluto is just as exciting, now matter what Pluto's classification. I think it would be at least as amazing if we sent one to Eris, or even a random asteroid.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (2, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#47449863)

I never understood this desire to keep Pluto a planet. Even an elementary school student could see it was a bit of an oddball compared to the other eight, with a highly eccentric and tilted orbit, a dimunitive size, and recurring announcements every few years of possible discovery of other tiny planet like things out in a similarly distant orbit.

Size is not really the point. Pluto (2300 km radius) is almost the same size as Mercury (2440 km). Both are smaller than the moons Ganymede (2634 km) and Titan (2575 km), while Callisto (2408 km) falls right in between them.

People just need to get over the notion that a "planet" is somehow better or higher ranking or more important than a "moon" or "Kuiper belt object" / whatever. Those are not hierarchical terms. They are just definitions of what a body's orbit is like, and the effect its gravity has on other nearby objects (or vice versa). Nailing down a static definition of "planet" was also important for not having to rewrite school science textbooks every couple years.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450067)

You must have a really out-of-date source for your sizes. Mercury is 2440 km, you got that correct. Pluto is a less-than-half 1184 km. 5 moons, including our own, are larger than Pluto and smaller than Mercury.

Size is most definitely one of the points here.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 4 months ago | (#47451023)

Mass is a big point. Mercury is very dense and quite a bit more massive than Ganymede and Titan and all the other moons in our solar system. Mercury is 3.3x10^23 kg, while the most massive moon, Ganymede, is only 1.48x10^23, less than half of Mercury's mass.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47449927)

... [pluto] was a bit of an oddball compared to the other eight, with a highly eccentric and tilted orbit, a diminutive size.

Though there's no absolute rules against a planet having those characteristics. Perhaps a planet caught by, not formed within, the system might match some/all of those, etc...

I can see the desire for have more specific names for different types of things, but I can also see the appeal in keeping things simple.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47450017)

", but I can also see the appeal in keeping things simple."
The universe is not simple. AS we find out more, classification become more precise.
To do otherwise is to embrace ignorance at the cost of discovery.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450751)

I think it would be at least as amazing if we sent one to Eris, or even a random asteroid.

Good news! The Dawn probe [wikipedia.org] recently did a flyby of Vesta [wikipedia.org] on its way to Ceres [wikipedia.org] .

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47449181)

If it orbits the freakin' star of our system, it is a godamn planet.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449245)

So theres thousands and thousands of planets in our system, then?

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 4 months ago | (#47449415)

yes. hundreds of thousands of minor planets [wikipedia.org] .
5 dwarf planets [wikipedia.org]
AND EIGHT FULL FLEDGED PLANETS.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (5, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47449957)

yes. hundreds of thousands of minor planets [wikipedia.org] . 5 dwarf planets [wikipedia.org] AND EIGHT FULL FLEDGED PLANETS.

And, of course, once we start naming Dwarf planets, will want Elf planets, Hobbit planets, Orc planets, etc...

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

es330td (964170) | about 4 months ago | (#47449981)

So the mnemonic device to remember the names of the planets will be about 60% as long as War & Peace.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

amanaplanacanalpanam (685672) | about 4 months ago | (#47449445)

You and I must be planets then.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449549)

Yo mama sure is a planet.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47450927)

I just came back from lunch, and I sure as hell feel like one.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

chuckugly (2030942) | about 4 months ago | (#47449479)

Everything with mass orbits about themselves in a massive n-body problem. I don't think it's as simple as you make it sound.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449783)

If it orbits the freakin' star of our system, it is a godamn planet.

Ah, nothing like a tiny bug screaming at the top of his lungs from some random rock that rotates third in line from a star...one out of a hundred billion, trillion.

Don't worry though. The universe just blinked and you arrived. It'll blink again and you'll be gone. Like the other hundred billion, trillion planets and their bugs give a shit.

(I hope this helps keep things in perspective here.)

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47450935)

I we want to keep things in perspective, our whole civilization will have come and gone before a single blink has occurred.

Re: We know it's a Goddamned planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449355)

Haha

Gosh Mickey! (2)

Dareth (47614) | about 4 months ago | (#47449643)

Gosh Mickey! I gained a few pounds and all, but no need to call me a planet.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

motorhead (82353) | about 4 months ago | (#47450095)

I believe the science is settled.

"Planet" is NOT Boolean (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47450257)

"Planet" is NOT Boolean. There is no clear-but boundary and all attempts to draw one depend on too many arbitrary features like hardness of crust, percentage of metals, etc. Nobody wants to use size alone because there are really big moons and asteroids also, and some feel that mass should be used instead of size.

So, let's start debating percentages. "It's 60% planet! No it's 35% planet, your fat mama is 60% planet!..."

Pluto=planet, because there are other stars (1)

dwheeler (321049) | about 4 months ago | (#47450423)

As I commented years ago [dwheeler.com] , the worst problem with the current IAU definition of "planet" is a practical one: we can't practically use it for objects orbiting other stars.

We are too far away to observe small objects around other stars, and I think we will always be able to detect larger objects but not smaller ones in many faraway orbits. So when we detect an object in another galaxy with the mass of Jupiter, and it’s orbiting a star, is it a planet? Well, under this current definition we don’t know if it’s a planet or not. Why? Because we may not be able to know what else is there in orbit. And that is a real problem. I think it’s clear that we will always be able to observe some larger objects without being able to detect the presence of smaller ones. If we can’t use the obvious word, then the definition is useless - so we need a better definition instead.

I think a much better definition of "planet" is "orbits a star, enough mass to become round". Yes, that means that Ceres and some Kuiper Belt objects become planets. That's a GOOD thing. A lot of people don't know of Ceres, yet that one object has about 1/3 of the ENTIRE mass of the asteroid belt.

Of course, none of this affects reality; this is merely a definition war. But clear terminology is important in any science.

Re:Pluto=planet, because there are other stars (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 4 months ago | (#47450609)

And that is a real problem

In what practical way has this ever been a problem ?

What do you call objects orbiting stars? (1)

dwheeler (321049) | about 4 months ago | (#47451029)

The practical problem is a difficulty of communication. The purpose of words is to help us communicate. If we have no word for a common idea we want to express, then we usually create a new word or phrase.

Let's say we observe an object, with mass less than a star, that is orbiting a star other than our Sun. What, exactly, do you call it? Under the IAU rules, you cannot call it a planet, because we generally cannot know if it has cleared its orbit. The standard solution in English is to call it a "planet". But if we call it a planet, then we should use the same definition everywhere.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (5, Funny)

Talderas (1212466) | about 4 months ago | (#47450523)

Even better.

New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006 to the planet Pluto. Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet on August 26, 2006.

New Horizons lost its destination within a year as the planet Pluto no longer exists.

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

dissy (172727) | about 4 months ago | (#47450819)

I don't see how having hundreds of thousands of planets in our solar system is a useful construct of the term "planet"
Nor do I see having $random number of planets being useful either, nor being even a "definition" of a word at that.

Since those are the only two logical conclusions that can result from such a statement as "pluto is a planet" - would you mind explaining your reasoning?

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 4 months ago | (#47450899)

<dramatic music>New Horizons set out on an epic journey of <Carl Sagan voice>millions and millions</Carl Sagan voice> of miles to the most distant, coldest parts of the solar system. Its 5, er, 8 year mission, to explore the last unexplored and most difficult to reach Planet of them all, Pluto, and whatever planets may be discovered beyond Pluto.</dramatic music>

Suddenly, in 2006 Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status, and all the Planets were now explored.

Fight? What for? <glorious fanfare>Mission Accomplished!</glorious fanfare> It's over. Get a life!

Re:We know it's a Goddamned planet (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about 4 months ago | (#47450991)

This video explains the situation very effectively.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

Four hour transit time (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47448973)

Right now the astronomers on the ground are rehearsing everything about the encounter, because it takes four hours for any signal to reach New Horizons and even longer to transmit anything at 1kb/s. The entire Pluto flyby will be automated: they do not have any control over what the spacecraft will see or be able to focus on at the moment of its closest approach to Pluto. The sheer number of things that have to happen at precisely the right time on this mission is insane. It's a good thing they've had a decade to pepare for this.

Re:Four hour transit time (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 4 months ago | (#47449967)

Yup, it's mind boggling to think of a mission that takes so long. Here's hoping they don't discover a moon orbiting Pluto at about 6000 miles, or forget to take the lens cap off.

Re:Four hour transit time (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47450941)

Here's hoping they don't discover a moon orbiting Pluto at about 6000 miles, or forget to take the lens cap off.

My understanding is that the probe will fly right through Charon's orbit when in Pluto's orbital plane to reduce the risk of collision with small moons or ring-like bits. Charon would likely clear out anything in the same orbit. (Outside of the "ratio" spots like 1/3 or 1/2 ahead or behind, which are avoided.)

In case there is an undiscovered moon of Pluto in another orbit, I wonder if there is not a way to have it look for non-star bright spots and then image and/or track them more carefully if found.

However, to keep the mission relatively inexpensive, this craft limits the movement of instruments to a narrow range. The whole probe rotates to point groups of instruments, unlike Voyager which had some semi-independent instrument booms. (A side-effect of this is that the main antenna can't point to Earth during most observations.)

Plus, the fly-by will be relatively quick such that there is not a lot of empty time to process images and/or react. That's one fast-moving probe.

Re:Four hour transit time (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 4 months ago | (#47450227)

It takes 4 hours for any signal to reach Pluto regardless of bitrate. Light only has 1 speed.

Re:Four hour transit time (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#47450411)

It takes 4 hours for any signal to reach Pluto regardless of bitrate. Light only has 1 speed.

Maybe in your universe. In my universe, the speed of light varies with the medium.

Re:Four hour transit time (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 4 months ago | (#47450625)

It takes 4 hours for the first bit. It takes 4 hours + size/bitrate for the last bit.

Re:Four hour transit time (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47450779)

I see you've never had TimeWarner.

If Mickey's Dog is Pluto, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47448989)

What the fuck is Goofy? Or Pete?

Re:If Mickey's Dog is Pluto, then... (4, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | about 4 months ago | (#47449073)

Animals in the Disney kingdom including Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pete et-all are uplifted [wikipedia.org] animals, but canines were resistant to the engineering protocols.

Pluto's breed appears to be almost completely immune to the uplift engineering (although he shows some signs of complex thought). Other canines like the marginally intelligent Goofy, and the devious, but short-sighted Pete show that the engineering has other flaws and or a slow mechanism for all canines, as these two specimens cannot be considered true type-1 beings in their current state. This can be further demonstrated by the inexplicable intelligence leap made in just one generation between Goofy and his son Max, the uplift process was certainly slower for canines than for other creatures, but it appears to be converging toward type-1.

Re:If Mickey's Dog is Pluto, then... (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 4 months ago | (#47449497)

Pete is a cat, not a dog. (He was originally a villain against Mickey Mouse.)

Re: If Mickey's Dog is Pluto, then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450639)

Actually, Pete has been a bear, a cat, and dog.

Depending on the portrayal.

Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

MouseR (3264) | about 4 months ago | (#47449007)

What do they expect to find on such a distant clump of rock and why is it they thought it to be a good investment to go snap a few slefies around it rather then use that money to go where things really ought to be interesting like Io and Europa?

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449045)

Here's a hint: no one's been there yet.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (-1, Troll)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47449991)

Here's a hint: no one's been there yet.

Since you're on /. it's likely that no one's been to your penis either, but I'm not going to recommend NASA mount an expedition there... :-)

While "Because it's there and we haven't been" is a valid answer, it isn't really a good answer.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

AnOnyxMouseCoward (3693517) | about 4 months ago | (#47450343)

... Wow, curiosity is really not your forte, is it? Yes, this is a direct ad hominem, but hey it's more justified than calling someone out on their penis (funny joke right there, btw, classy.).

"Because it's there and we haven't been/know close to nothing about it" is a _perfectly_ good answer. This is science we're talking about, and raw research and exploration don't need another reason.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47451061)

... Wow, curiosity is really not your forte, is it?

"Because it's there and we haven't been/know close to nothing about it" is a _perfectly_ good answer. This is science we're talking about, and raw research and exploration don't need another reason.

I'm plenty curious, but won't be signing up for that first manned mission to the surface of the Sun -- we haven't been there either, the movie Sunshine not withstanding (and it didn't go too well for them anyway) :-)

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449089)

They expect to find that it is really cold.

Money well spent.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449103)

A better understanding of the early formation of the Solar system perhaps? Or you know, instead of having someone hold your dick for you, you could take the initiative and learn about what they intend to learn yourself.

Instead you post on /. and expose what a fucking moron Luddite that you are.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (4, Insightful)

neilo_1701D (2765337) | about 4 months ago | (#47449111)

What do they expect to find on such a distant clump of rock and why is it they thought it to be a good investment to go snap a few slefies around it rather then use that money to go where things really ought to be interesting like Io and Europa?

Well, it's a pretty cheap mission at $650 million over 15 years.

But the most exciting thing about the mission is the clues it gives to the early history of the solar system.

You're right: Europa and Io are very interesting places to visit, especially considering the possibility for life there, and no doubt those missions are being planned. But for now, we're a year out from Pluto and about to discover what we're yet to discover.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449233)

Well, it's a pretty cheap mission at $650 million over 15 years.

*siiiggghhhh*

It's so frustrating that I hear people bitch about costs like that (not talking about the parent, of course) and yet, are more than happy for the government to spend trillions and countless lives on idiotic wars - which end up causing even more hostilities in the future.

If we, the US of A, concentrated our money, brains, and gumption on science and space exploration, not only would we be reaping the benefits of that technology, but we wouldn't be paying for the bad karma from all the decades of sticking our noses in countries where we have no business being in - especailly militarily.

It's truly disgusting that as a people, we value violence, brute force, and military strength over knowledge and wisdom.

Since the 1960s with our space race (yeah, it was motivated by the Cold War) we have degraded into a bunch of bullying, ignorant assholes who are more concerned about gathering money and toys instead of knowledge and better ourselves and humanity.

What a pathetic country we have become.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449611)

It's even worse than you say. The USA basically took over the Nazi rocket technologies at the end of WW2, and all the 60's space race consisted of was really intensive refining of the inherited technologies. You were nowhere before WW2, and you're really gone nowhere since the end of the space race. Yet sadly you're still light-years ahead of us in Europe, which is just so incredibly depressing.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

halivar (535827) | about 4 months ago | (#47449743)

You're not giving us enough credit. We pioneered the nuclear technology that enables these craft to run for decades, and we've been improving that tech ever since. For instance, New Horizons runs on a third of the plutonium of Cassini-Huygens. We got a jump-start in rocketry, yes. All great men stand on the shoulders of giants. Our advances in computing and nuclear power are themselves a giant the rest of the world's space programs may stand on.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (2)

Psicopatico (1005433) | about 4 months ago | (#47450373)

50+ years of advancement in computing and the result is Windows 8.

Fuck.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449645)

Your description applies to the entire human race not just those living in the US. Greed, violence, war, and just plain idiocy is not unique to only people living in the US. The fact that you cannot see that is proof the description will continue to be fitting far into the future.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 4 months ago | (#47450117)

I was fishing last week, and took some time to observe the fish behavior, as the water was especially clear and the ecosystem was especially healthy.

Something I noticed almost immediately was that the largest fish were swimming near the shore. I've seen this before, but in this case there were no small fry near the banks. It was only the large adults. Out toward the center of the lake was where you were seeing smaller fish rise to food on the surface. In the case of this small mountain lake, the prime locations for what these trout need (food and cover, mostly) happened to be near the banks while the less prime locations were out in the middle.

As they say, big fish eat small fish, and if those small fish want an opportunity to cruise a better location, they will have to fight for it.

The battle for food and shelter/protection is not something we only see in humans fighting wars. The vast majority of animal species on this planet spend the entire length of their lives in a constant battle for food and shelter.

"double the mission" (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 months ago | (#47449607)

Right now they are frantically searching for a second Kuiper Belt target within the range of the nuclear generator lifetime (+5 years?). But they have not found one yet. They would hope to set the course shortly after leaving Pluto.

Re:"double the mission" (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#47449887)

They would hope to set the course shortly after leaving Pluto.

They would hope to set course shortly before reaching Pluto. A gravity assist from Pluto will significantly increase the size of course change that could be made.

Re:"double the mission" (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 4 months ago | (#47450649)

Gravity from Pluto is very small, and the trajectory has already been optimized for the primary mission, so there's not a lot of room for changing it.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449157)

Little green men from Mars. Damn, you'll see they beat us by a lightyear in being first on the Pluto

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#47449599)

so they're getting there like.. *right now*? awesome.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#47449159)

Perhaps because they already sent one probe to Jupiter, and another is en-route.

Pluto is already sad and dejected from being demoted from planetary status. Must you compound its misery by having all the probes crowd around the "popular" planets like paparazzi?

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (5, Funny)

clovis (4684) | about 4 months ago | (#47449189)

What do they expect to find on such a distant clump of rock and why is it they thought it to be a good investment to go snap a few slefies around it rather then use that money to go where things really ought to be interesting like Io and Europa?

Please return your 4-digit ID.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (5, Interesting)

Rolgar (556636) | about 4 months ago | (#47449279)

I think this was a more time sensitive mission, because Pluto is moving farther from the sun and scientists warned [discovery.com] (rightly or wrongly) that it was about to freeze, and they had a window to use a gravity assist from Jupiter to get the probe there much sooner, and there was also an earlier mission snowballed.

On the other hand, Io and Europa aren't going to be any different in 5 years than they would have been a few years ago when the probe would have reached those destinations, so those missions were not as high priority than the potential impact of Pluto's orbit that they weren't sure of when they green-lighted this mission 13 years ago.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Rolgar (556636) | about 4 months ago | (#47449283)

Not snowballed, mothballed, egads.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47450807)

The first is more appropriate for Pluto's region.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449745)

There's actually an even dumber reason than that.

The RTG on New Horizons [wikipedia.org] was a spare from Cassini. It was very much "use it or lose it" as finding more plutonium for a RTG is getting more difficult every day.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about 4 months ago | (#47450833)

There's actually an even dumber reason than that.

The RTG on New Horizons [wikipedia.org] was a spare from Cassini. It was very much "use it or lose it" as finding more plutonium for a RTG is getting more difficult every day.

Oh c'mon, you're trying to tell me that *nobody* at NASA had the common sense to call a few Libyan nationalists and order some used pinball machine parts off of Amazon?

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449869)

Forgot about that, Due to its orbit its "summer" only occurs for a few decades every ~200 Years, the height of its "summer" (closest point to the sun) was in 1990. Observing it during winter is relatively easy, but observing it during summer is a little more time sensitive and you've got a long wait between opportunities.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 4 months ago | (#47449383)

Well if theories are correct, Pluto's moon is not actually a moon but instead is a Mass relay that is just encrusted in ice.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | about 4 months ago | (#47450187)

Well if theories are correct, Pluto's moon is not actually a moon

that's no moon...

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450597)

I know you're kidding, but can you imagine how our lives would be interesting if the probe find that this or something similar is true?

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449443)

Yeah, if only they'd used the New Horizons probe to go somewhere interesting like Io or Europa...Oh wait:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/science/jupiterScience.php

Jackass.

Anyone have Cliff Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449735)

A single relatively inexpensive ($650 Million, Compared to $2.5 Billion for MSL) probe isn't too much to explore the one of the most distant solid bodies in the solar system. Nothing is really known about its surface beyond that it has some features (known via extremely blurry telescope images) and it has significant seasonal changes, the cause of which are barely theorized.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449793)

Among other things, Sky and Telescope says one thing they'll look for is if Pluto's atmosphere matches predictive models - it goes so far to and away from the Sun that it could be possible that the atmosphere undergoes collapse. And also, can evidence be found if Charon has under-ice water akin to Europa?

Finally, Pluto is just a flyby.... New Horizons also will try to study a Kuiper Belt Object, and I find it interesting the mission was launched without a target - their team is studying Hubble images.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 4 months ago | (#47450127)

The bottom line is that we know far more about Uranus than Pluto. Even given the wealth of knowledge and enjoyment Uranus has given generations of scientists and philosophers, the decision was made to explore strange (no not new worlds, just strange.) I think in part this is due to the fact that Uranus is massive and gassy, but what do I know?

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450157)

What do they expect to find on such a distant clump of rock and why is it they thought it to be a good investment to go snap a few slefies around it rather then use that money to go where things really ought to be interesting like Io and Europa?

Because every time we go there, WE FIND OUT SOMETHING.

We find something we HAD NO IDEA was happening.
Look at Io for the first example from the voyager series.

And every time we go again, we bring commentators like you with us.
That part is predictable.

This time Europa was more expensive than our last look at pluto's atmosphere before it freezes, so.. pluto is is.

Re:Anyone have Cliff Notes? (3, Informative)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 4 months ago | (#47450483)

Besides, we were warned Europa is off limits

Unfortunately (0)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#47449227)

Scientists will never send probes to Uranus.

Sadly (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47449259)

I am rapidly approaching the age where that is disproven

Re:Sadly (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47449487)

Fag.

Re:Sadly (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 4 months ago | (#47450769)

Only if doctors can be equated to scientsts....

Re:Sadly (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47451199)

Only if doctors can be equated to scientsts....

You think that's a faith-based finger?

Re:Unfortunately (1, Insightful)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 4 months ago | (#47449313)

Exploring Uranus would reveal it contains lots of methane gas.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#47450421)

Scientists will never send probes to Uranus.

But the TSA will.

Reclassification (2)

DarthVain (724186) | about 4 months ago | (#47450129)

I can't wait until Pluto is reclassified again, this time as a derelict alien spacecraft orbiting at the edge of our solar system.

Units! (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#47450395)

From TFA:
"Pluto’s surface temperature is a chilly -380 degrees Fahrenheit. "

Can we use useful units please?

That's 44.2611 Kelvin.

Re:Units! (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 4 months ago | (#47450453)

OK then, would you like that in degrees Reaumur, Rankine, Newton, Romer, or Delisle?

Re:Units! (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 4 months ago | (#47450665)

You mean ~44 Kelvin.

Re:Units! (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#47450805)

You mean ~44 Kelvin.

Any Verilog user would disagree.

settled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47450451)

Climate change is settled science. The number of planets in our solar system is not. It once was.

Finally we will learn what it really looks like (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 4 months ago | (#47450515)

[ ] a planet
[ ] a plutoid
[ ] a bitch

Say "what" one more goddamned time...

Waste of Hubble? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47451069)

As it leaves the Pluto system, New Horizons will burn its rockets and head toward a new destination. The team plans to send it to another Kuiper belt object, though exactly which one has not yet been decided. Hubble is right now searching for candidates...

That seems a waste of Hubble's precious time. Why can't Earth-based telescopes do that? You don't really need resolution to find moving specs, just lots of light-gathering ability, which Earth scopes can do better than Hubble.

Typically a scope takes an image of the same area of the sky on different days, then a computer or human compare the two images for any changes. If anything is spotted different, then subsequent observations are done to narrow down the nature of the movement.

(Hubble could image a candidate once identified, but please not for the search phase.)

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