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Raumfahrt - NEW HORIZONS bei Pluto - Update-28

7.07.2017

New Mysteries Surround New Horizons' Next Flyby Target

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft doesn't zoom past its next science target until New Year's Day 2019, but the Kuiper Belt object, known as 2014 MU69, is already revealing surprises.

Observers Kai Getrost and Alex Parker wait to collect 2014 MU69 stellar occultation data in Argentina on June 3, 2017. Several New Horizons team members and collaborators will return to the country on July 17 for this summer's third and final MU69 occultation observation opportunity. (Image credit: Kai Getrost)

 

Scientists have been sifting through data gathered from observing the object's quick pass in front of a star – an astronomical event known as an occultation – on June 3. More than 50 mission team members and collaborators set up telescopes across South Africa and Argentina, along a predicted track of the narrow shadow of MU69 that the occultation would create on Earth's surface, aiming to catch a two-second glimpse of the object's shadow as it raced across the Earth. Accomplishing the observations of that occultation was made possible with the help of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Gaia, a space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Combined, the pre-positioned mobile telescopes captured more than 100,000 images of the occultation star that can be used to assess the environment around this Kuiper Belt object (KBO). While MU69 itself eluded direct detection, the June 3 data provided valuable and unexpected insights that have already helped New Horizons.

"These data show that MU69 might not be as dark or as large as some expected," said occultation team leader Marc Buie, a New Horizons science team member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

Initial estimates of MU69's diameter, based primarily on data taken by the Hubble Space Telescope since the KBO's discovery in 2014, fall in the 12-25-mile (20-40-kilometer) range – though data from this summer's ground-based occultation observations might imply it's at or even below the smallest sizes expected before the June 3 occultation.

Besides MU69's size, the readings offer details on other aspects of the Kuiper Belt object.

"These results are telling us something really interesting," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of SwRI. "The fact that we accomplished the occultation observations from every planned observing site but didn't detect the object itself likely means that either MU69 is highly reflective and smaller than some expected, or it may be a binary or even a swarm of smaller bodies left from the time when the planets in our solar system formed."

More data are on the way, with additional occultations of MU69 occurring on July 10 and July 17. On July 10, NASA's airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) will use its powerful 100-inch (2.5-meter) telescope to probe the space around MU69 for debris that might present a hazard to New Horizons as it flies by in 18 months.

On July 17, the Hubble Space Telescope also will check for debris around MU69, while team members set up another groundbased "fence line" of small mobile telescopes along the predicted ground track of the occultation shadow in southern Argentina to try to better constrain, or even determine, the size of MU69.

Check out the star brightness, predicted shadow path and other tech specs for the July 10 and July 17 occultation events.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 16.07.2017

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New Horizons Video Soars over Pluto’s Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

 
 
 
 
 

Soaring over Pluto »
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute


 
 
 
 
 

Soaring over Charon »
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Siehe auch: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20170714-2

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In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent home the first close-up pictures of Pluto and its moons – amazing imagery that inspired many to wonder what a flight over the distant worlds’ icy terrain might be like.

Wonder no more. Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.

This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra -- which exhibits deep and wide pits -- before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.

The equally exciting flight over Charon begins high over the hemisphere New Horizons saw on its closest approach, then descends over the deep, wide canyon of Serenity Chasma. The view moves north, passing over Dorothy Gale crater and the dark polar hood of Mordor Macula. The flight then turns south, covering the northern terrain of Oz Terra before ending over the relatively flat equatorial plains of Vulcan Planum and the “moated mountains” of Clarke Montes.

The topographic relief is exaggerated by a factor of two to three times in these movies to emphasize topography; the surface colors of Pluto and Charon also have been enhanced to bring out detail.

Digital mapping and rendering were performed by Paul Schenk and John Blackwell of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. All feature names in the Pluto system are informal.

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New Horizons Unveils New Maps of Pluto, Charon on Flyby Anniversary

Pluto's Surface in Detail

Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Charon's Surface in Detail

Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

On July 14, 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made its historic flight through the Pluto system – providing the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons and collecting other data that has transformed our understanding of these mysterious worlds on the solar system's outer frontier.

Scientists are still analyzing and uncovering data that New Horizons recorded and sent home after the encounter. On the two-year anniversary of the flyby, the team is unveiling a set of detailed, high-quality global maps of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

"The complexity of the Pluto system — from its geology to its satellite system to its atmosphere— has been beyond our wildest imagination," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "Everywhere we turn are new mysteries. These new maps from the landmark exploration of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons mission in 2015 will help unravel these mysteries and are for everyone to enjoy."

The new maps include global mosaics of Pluto and Charon, assembled from nearly all of the highest-resolution images obtained by New Horizons' Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). These mosaics are the most detailed and comprehensive global views yet of the Pluto and Charon surfaces using New Horizons data.

The new collection also includes topography maps of the hemispheres of Pluto and Charon visible to New Horizons during the spacecraft's closest approach. The topography is derived from digital stereo-image mapping tools that measure the parallax – or the difference in the apparent relative positions – of features on the surface obtained at different viewing angles during the encounter. Scientists use these parallax displacements of high and low terrain to estimate landform heights. 

Both the new Pluto and the new Charon global mosaics have been overlain with transparent, colorized topography data wherever on their surfaces stereo data is available.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, manages the New Horizons mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), is the principal investigator and leads the mission; SwRI leads the science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. APL designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft.

Global mosaics of Pluto and Charon projected at 300 meters (985 feet) per pixel that have been assembled from most of the highest resolution images obtained by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) onboard New Horizons. Transparent, colorized stereo topography data generated for the encounter hemispheres of Pluto and Charon have been overlain on the mosaics. Terrain south of about 30°S on Pluto and Charon was in darkness leading up to and during the flyby, so is shown in black. "S" and "T" respectively indicate Sputnik Planitia and Tartarus Dorsa on Pluto, and "C" indicates Caleuche Chasma on Charon. All feature names on Pluto and Charon are informal.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Quelle: NASA

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NASA Video Soars over Pluto’s Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

 
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Paul Schenk and John Blackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute

In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent home the first close-up pictures of Pluto and its moons – amazing imagery that inspired many to wonder what a flight over the distant worlds’ icy terrain might be like.

 

Wonder no more. Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.

 

This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra -- which exhibits deep and wide pits -- before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.

 
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Paul Schenk and John Blackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute

 

The equally exciting flight over Charon begins high over the hemisphere New Horizons saw on its closest approach, then descends over the deep, wide canyon of Serenity Chasma. The view moves north, passing over Dorothy Gale crater and the dark polar hood of Mordor Macula. The flight then turns south, covering the northern terrain of Oz Terra before ending over the relatively flat equatorial plains of Vulcan Planum and the “moated mountains” of Clarke Montes.

 

The topographic relief is exaggerated by a factor of two to three times in these movies to emphasize topography; the surface colors of Pluto and Charon also have been enhanced to bring out detail.

 

Digital mapping and rendering were performed by Paul Schenk and John Blackwell of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. All feature names in the Pluto system are informal.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 25.07.2017

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Wow! See New Horizons' Next Flyby Target Blot Out a Star's Light

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Artist's illustration of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flying by the roughly 25-mile-wide (40 kilometers) object 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019.

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The New Horizons spacecraft's next flyby target blocked the light of an unnamed star on July 17, and mission scientists got a great look at the brief event.

New Horizons — which famously cruised past Pluto in July 2015 — is zooming toward a Jan. 1, 2019, close encounter with a small object called 2014 MU69, which lies about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto's orbit, in the frigid Kuiper Belt.

Not much is known about 2014 MU69. It's tough to observe, because it's so far away and so small — just 14 to 25 miles (22 to 40 kilometers) wide, according to astronomers' estimates. And there hasn't been much time to study the object; as its name suggests, 2014 MU69 was discovered just three years ago.

So New Horizons scientists have been crisscrossing the globe over the past month and a half, getting into position to watch the object block the light of several stars. Such "occultations" can reveal a great deal about the foreground object, including its size and the amount of debris around it, New Horizons scientists have said.

The team planned for, and then observed, three different occultations by 2014 MU69 — one on June 3, one on July 10 and another on July 17. These events were hard targets; each lasted just 2 seconds or so and was visible from a narrow band of sea and land on Earth.

NASA’s New Horizons team trained mobile telescopes on an unnamed star (center) from rural Argentina on July 17, 2017. The Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which is 4.1 billion miles from Earth, briefly blocked the light from the background star, as seen in this GIF. New Horizons will fly by 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI 

For example, to spot the July 17 occultation, New Horizons team members set up 24 mobile telescopes in remote parts of Argentina. At least five of these instruments captured the moment when 2014 MU69 moved in front of the star, causing the background object to wink out, mission scientists said.

"We nailed it spectacularly," New Horizons co-investigator Amanda Zangari, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement.

Analysis of the data gathered during the three occultations will take weeks, NASA officials said. But it's already clear that the observation campaign — which was coordinated with the help of observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Europe's Gaia spacecraft, and also involved NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope-equipped 747 jet — was a success, New Horizons team members said.

"This effort — spanning six months, three spacecraft, 24 portable ground-based telescopes and NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory — was the most challenging stellar occultation in the history of astronomy, but we did it!" said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, also from SwRI. "We spied the shape and size of 2014 MU69 for the first time, a Kuiper Belt scientific treasure we will explore just over 17 months from now. Thanks to this success, we can now plan the upcoming flyby with much more confidence."

Quelle: SC

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