The Great Pluto Demotion
For years we grew up thinking that Pluto was part of the nine planets in our solar system…and then it wasn’t, but in 2006 poor Pluto received some closure on it’s existential crisis when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) demoted it to a dwarf planet.
Despite it’s new label, the scientists at Nasa still found value in researching the planet, allocating $700 million on a vessel (New Horizons) dedicated to studying Pluto’s environment – and 9 years later we’ve witnessed the first high resolution look of the planet, taking us from this:
A picture that was taken 12,600 kilometres from Pluto’s surface, in a journey that spanned over 4 billion kilometres to get us there…and we ain’t seen nothing yet.Because of this distance it will take New Horizons an average of 16 months to transfer all the data back to Earth.
What It All Means
Remember the heart shape on it’s surface? Well NASA reports that the heart’s interior could be a sign of ‘ongoing geological processes’. In other words, Pluto’s initially thought of Ice Mountains could potentially be ice volcanoes. To top it all off, the lack of many craters in the planet’s surface mean that Pluto is a lot younger than originally estimated. It mean’s that something is active. Volcanism, migrating ice – latent heat from a possible internal ocean!
Life outside Earth? A possibility. Or not.
What is guaranteed however, is the resurgent interest in space exploration. If the numerous space themed flicks in the last five years, 12 of which were released in 2013 alone, are any indication – I don’t know what is.
Ladies and gents, space is cool again.