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Get Ready for More Pluto Pics from New Horizons

One of the last images sent by New Horizons since its flyby, but that's about to change. Here, backlit by the Sun, Pluto’s atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo. Image was taken about midnight EDT on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Pluto and shows structures as small as 12 miles across. The image, delivered to Earth on July 23, is displayed with north at the top of the frame.  Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

One of the last images sent by New Horizons since its flyby, but that’s about to change. Here, backlit by the sun, Pluto’s atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo in this image taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft around midnight EDT on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Pluto and shows structures as small as 12 miles across. The image, delivered to Earth on July 23, is displayed with north at the top of the frame. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

If you thought the New Horizons spacecraft flyby of the Pluto system happened waaaay too fast and you’re pining for more images and data, you are in luck. What the spacecraft has been able to send back so far is just the tip of the icy dwarf planet, so to speak.

Starting tomorrow, Saturday, September 5, 2015, the spacecraft will begin an “intensive” downlink session that will last for a year or more, sending back the tens of gigabits of data the spacecraft collected and stored on its digital recorders during the flyby. What will come first are “selected high priority” data-sets that the science team has been anxiously waiting for.
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An air traffic control map from a 2014 FAA report. Credit: FAA.

An air traffic control map from a 2014 FAA report. Credit: FAA.

According to a recent report by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), airports across the country are seeing record passenger numbers. Along with that comes congestion at airport terminals and runways, causing delays and other problems — including accidents. The FAA report said if nothing is done to curb congestion by 2030, the busiest US airports will see problems rise dramatically. While infrastructure such as terminals and runways can be expanded or enhanced there’s one piece of the airport real estate that can’t be expanded: airspace.
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Pluto’s Moon Nix

Artist's impression of Pluto and its moons. Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

Artist’s impression of Pluto and its moons. Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

Over the course of the past decade, many amazing discoveries have been made at the edge of the Solar System. Thanks to the work of astronomers working out of Earth-based observatories, with the Hubble Space Telescope, and those behind the recent New Horizons mission, not only have new objects been discovered, but additional discoveries have been made about the ones we already knew about.

For example, in 2005, two additional satellites were discovered in orbit of PlutoHydra and Nix. The discovery of these moons (which has since been followed by the discovery of two more) has taught astronomers much about the far-flung system of Pluto, and helped to advance our understanding of the Kuiper Belt.

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Carnival of Space #421

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

The tent is up! This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Kimberly Arcand at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory blog.

Click here to read Carnival of Space #363.
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What Do Other Planets Sound Like?

GuideToSpace208v2

This is a video – you should watch it!

We know that in space, no one can hear you scream. But what would things sound like on another planet?
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The (Possible) Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10

An artist’s conception of 2007 OR10, nicknamed Snow White. Astronomers suspect that its rosy color is due to the presence of irradiated methane. Credit: NASA

Over the course of the past decade, more and more objects have been discovered within the Trans-Neptunian region. With every new find, we have learned more about the history of our Solar System and the mysteries it holds. At the same time, these finds have forced astronomers to reexamine astronomical conventions that have been in place for decades.

Consider 2007 OR10, a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO) located within the scattered disc that at one time went by the nicknames of “the seventh dwarf” and “Snow White”. Approximately the same size as Haumea, it is believed to be a dwarf planet, and is currently the largest object in the Solar System that does not have a name.

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More Spectacular Images from the MUOS-4 Launch

Stunning downrange plume over the rising sun, about 3 mins after launch of the MUOS-4 satellite from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Used by permission. Credit and copyright: Mike Seeley.

Stunning downrange plume over the rising sun, about 3 mins after launch of the MUOS-4 satellite from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Used by permission. Credit and copyright: Michael Seeley.

Skywatchers across Central Florida got an unusual view early Wednesday morning in conjunction with the Atlas V launch of the MUOS-4 satellite.

“That wasn’t thunder this AM, Florida: An absolutely stunning MUOS launch!” tweeted photographer Michael Seeley, who shared several images of the launch with Universe Today. Mike is a freelance photographer and works with Spaceflight Insider. You can see more of his imagery at his website.

The pre-dawn light combined with unusual atmospheric conditions produced stunning views both during and well after the launch. The skyshow was visible across a wide area.

“Folks as far south as Miami and up to Jacksonville to the north saw it,” Universe Today’s David Dickinson said. “I even heard kids waiting for the school bus on our street crying out in surprise!”

You can read more about the launch and the mission in our article from Ken Kremer, but see a stunning gallery of images of the unusual cloud formations following the launch below:
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ULA Atlas V rovket successfully launches MUOS-4 for the U.S. Navy on Sept. 2, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.  Credit: ULA

ULA Atlas V rocket successfully launches MUOS-4 for the U.S. Navy on Sept. 2, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: ULA
See launch gallery below

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – Today’s (Sept. 2) stunningly successful launch of the US Navy’s revolutionary MUOS-4 tactical communications satellite atop a mighty Atlas V rocket produced an unexpectedly exotic skyshow beyond compare for lucky spectators all around the Florida Space Coast, as it thundered off a Cape Canaveral launch pad and simultaneously generated house and bone rattling vibrations.

Seasoned and long time launch enthusiasts have rarely if ever never seen anything like this morning’s spectacular predawn launch of the Mobile User Objective System-4 (MUOS-4) satellite for the US Navy at 6:18 a.m. EDT aboard [click to continue…]

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A Fiery End for Kosmos 1315 Over Hawaii

Reentry of Kosmos-1315 captured by Joshua Lambus. Click here to see the full video.

Reentry of Kosmos-1315 captured by Joshua Lambus. Click here to see the full video.

A relic of the Cold War surprised beach-goers and Hawaiian islands residents Sunday night, as Kosmos-1315 reentered the Earth’s atmosphere in a dramatic display.

The reentry occurred right around 11:00 PM Sunday night on August 30th local time (Hawaii is 10 hours behind Universal Time). Folks in the satellite tracking community had been following the predicted reentry for some time, which was projected for August 31st at 10:56 UT +/- an hour. That puts the Hawaii sighting right at the beginning of the window. [click to continue…]

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A montage of  32 images taken in less than a second as the International Space Station transits the Sun and a solar prominence. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

A montage of 32 images taken in less than a second as the International Space Station transits the Sun and a solar prominence. Credit and copyright: Thierry Legault.

When you’re Thierry Legault and you want to challenge yourself, the bar is set pretty high.

“This is a challenge I imagined some time ago,” Legault told Universe Today via email, “but I needed all the right conditions.”

The challenge? Capture a transit of the International Space Station of not just the Sun — which he’s done dozens of times — but in front of a solar prominence.

Legault said the transit of the prominence, which he captured on August 21, 2015, lasted 0.8 seconds. His camera was running at 40 frames per second, and he got about 32 shots in that time.

See a video of the transit in real time, and more, below:

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