Sunday, January 02, 2011

...but we'll get there sooner or later...
If you look in the left margin of this blog, you'll see a Countdown Clock set for July 14, 2015. That's when the New Horizons spacecraft, proudly launched by NASA, will at last reach the planet/planetoid/big rock/small rock/whatever you wanna call it, PLUTO.
The planet PLUTO is way out there. NASA launched a probe to Pluto back in 2005. It is now halfway there. I guess this proves that Pluto ain't exactly the easiest place to commute to. There's been a great debate; is Pluto a planet or not? I would tend to think that any body of mass which has smaller bodies revolving around it is a planet, and according to that definition, Pluto IS a planet. Or maybe a Planetoid. Or Perhaps a Space Pebble?
Here's Pluto (foreground) with its moon, Charon, with the sun a long ways away. I've read that in relation to Pluto, Charon is a very big moon, and actually both bodies of icy rock revolve around each other at a point between the two (Epicenter). Pluto also revolves the sun at a pretty steep angle, going above, then below the average plane of the rest of the Solar System. To get there, NASA's "New Horizons" Pluto-probe has had to get gravity assists by sling-shotting past Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. The gravity assist is akin to one skater slinging another skater ahead in a Roller-Derby match. Some think that Pluto's orbit is so eccentric because it once was an asteroid, zipping thru space 'till the Sun reeled it in.

Since a space probe has never been to Pluto, it'll be really exciting to actually see Photos of Pluto/Charon and any other moons (if any) Pluto has. There are already a couple of Voyager spacecrafts out there, each zinging its way through Deep Space after taking pictures of most of the outer planets. Now they're sailing beyond the Solar System, and who knows what they'll find.

One more thought: I'll be 62 when "New Horizons" reaches Pluto. A 62-year-old "ME" is more difficult to imagine than all of those vast planetary distances!


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