When I think of the most amazing aspect of our time on this world we call home, Earth, there is no doubt in my mind that the technology and the ability to explore new worlds, learning new details of our the universe beyond our Earth bound capabilities is among the top of the list. To put things in reference, we can look back just 35 years ago and see what we have learned in just that short amount of time, basically just 10 years less than I personally have been alive. IN that short span of mankind, and an unfathomable tiny sliver in the timeframe of our Universe’ existence, we have visited the 2 remaining giant planets, Uranus and Neptune with the Voyager 2 flyby, and within the next 15 days we will have the most detailed images of Pluto and Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx thanks to the New Horizons flyby in July 2015. With Voyager 1 and 2 either in interstellar space or nearing it respectively, we can say we have explored the entire reach of our solar system, although some would say that until the Oort Cloud is visited, we still haven’t visited all bodies which are under the Sun’s gravitational influence. Rather, we have explored all areas in which the Sun’s solar wind is dominant. Voyager 1 is now in an area that is dominated by the interstellar solar wind.
When asked what we will learn about Pluto due to the New Horizons flyby, Project Scientist Hal Weaver had this to say: “New Horizons is one of the great explorations of our time,” said New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver at APL. “There’s so much we don’t know, not just about Pluto, but other worlds like it. We’re not rewriting textbooks with this historic mission – we’ll be writing them from scratch.”
And that is so true, as I was looking back at my favorite book and childhood Christmas present of all time: Our Universe by Roy A. Gallant published in 1980. Not only is this book special because it was a Christmas present from my Mom and Dad, it also gave me knowledge of the universe we are a part of. As with most kids, Pluto always fascinated me, and part of the fascination with Pluto, as it was with unvisited planets Uranus and Neptune, is that we had so darn little knowledge of these out-lying bodies. As Mr. Weaver said, they will be writing the books on Pluto, because while we already know a tremendous amount more about Pluto and have since discovered 4 more moons, just 35 years ago all we had were the following 5 pages in one of the main authoritative books of the time on our solar system and beyond.
Just 5 pages, with more questions and discussion of its character or if it was even truly a planet due to its strange orbit, low mass, and similarity to the outer planet’s moons.
And to think in less than two weeks from the time I post this, we will not have even clearer images of the surface of Pluto and Charon than ever before.
Here are the latest amazing images in color (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute) and they will only get better!
Enjoy the flight, and make sure to follow @NewHorizons2015 on Twitter for the latest!
Updated on 7-15-15
Amazing images from the flyby! (will update as they come and I can)
New image of Charon:
— Styx The Moon (@Styx_The_Moon) July 16, 2015