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Science PopWrapped | Science

Pluto Flyby Brings Up New Findings

Gennyvera Pacheco | PopWrapped Author

Gennyvera Pacheco

07/30/2015 11:47 am
PopWrapped | Science
Pluto Flyby Brings Up New Findings | pluto
Media Courtesy of

“Science never sleeps.” Nor do those on NASA’s New Horizons Team. Video excerpts from a panel, featuring some of the team, give us some insight on initial information gathered during the #PlutoFlyBy.

In the July 24th video, NASA Director of Planetary Science Jim Green explains that images from the July 14 trek are just making their way back to them now, hence the ten-day gap between the flyby and the new info.

Alan Stern, New Horizons Principal Investigator, adds on to Green’s statement: “We have four to five percent of the data back,” Stern discloses. “So we’re only scratching the surface.”

There’s a bit of humor from Stern when he says, “besides the data sets, there’s one other way on this project to note that we've really done the exploration, and that’s this bumper sticker.” He then pulls out a bumper sticker showing an image of Pluto taken by New Horizons, puts in the frame of a rearview mirror with “My other vehicle explored Pluto” written beside it.

A picture of the approaching hemisphere taken during the flyby shows Pluto in all its glory, with the resolution captured surpassing previously existing data from other flybys.

“The level of detail is spectacular,” marvels Stein. It is a true color image, so what you see is what you get! He also offhandedly mentions that Pluto has a north pole, a fact the following panelists go more in-depth about.

Based on data gathered since 1989 until now, Pluto is moving away from the sun. A fellow panelist explains, “It takes 248 years for Pluto to go around the sun, and Pluto has a very eccentric orbit.” During its orbit, Pluto’s distance from the sun can vary significantly from closer to farther.

“Pluto’s north pole is tilted at an angle of 120 degrees, relative to the plane it orbits in,” the New Horizons team member continues. Due to this inconsistent exposure to sunlight for some parts of Pluto, sublimation, or the change of phase from solid to gas, is happening and going into the atmosphere.

Furthermore, according to the last panelist, there is erosion on Pluto. Viscous, or adherent, ice is going towards the more rugged parts of Pluto’s surface. These findings, however, show that the ice is “geologically soft and maleable even in Pluto conditions and they will float in the same way that glaciers do,” he adds.

Check out the video below to watch it in its entirety!


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