O/T NASA Science Fare: About Five Days To. . . Pluto! New Horizon’s Fly-By

MRK-Pluto-07-2015 It is a tiny, frigid and largely dark place — a mini-world, only two thirds the size of our moon — made mostly of frozen chemicals, ones that would be gases at the temperature of our home planet. But way out there — almost four billion miles from the Sun — nitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and water are all hard ices. And yet it is starkly beautiful — in its own way. The counter (at top left sidebar, on our main website) will remind you when to go check in with NASA.

This is an extraordinary moment — it may well be the last time in our lifetimes (for those of us 35 and older), that we receive the very first high res images of a distant world — the last of the “undiscovereds” — i.e., larger images of bodies in our local Solar System. And as the image at right suggests, we are already being mystified by the gradations in color, on this likely all ice mini-world. From NASA, then:

. . . .Of course, higher-resolution images in the days to come will allow mission scientists to make more accurate maps, but this map is a tantalizing preview.

“We’re at the ‘man in the moon’ stage of viewing Pluto,” said John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, deputy leader of the Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team. “It’s easy to imagine you’re seeing familiar shapes in this bizarre collection of light and dark features. However, it’s too early to know what these features really are. . . .”

And so, around midday Eastern, on July 15, we will begin to see the highest resolution images. It will be quite a show! Count on that much. Onward!

And. . . On Mars — Per our fine commenter!

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