Monday, 13 July 2015

Hello Pluto

If an object was travelling at 32,400 mph in a vacuum how far would it travel in 9 and a half years may sound like one of those hypothetical maths questions that maths teachers enjoy torturing their students with but this is not a poser from a man with leather elbow patches on his jumper because the New Horizons probe has just done it and the answer is to Pluto, or 3.78 billion miles.
When it blasted off in 2006 it was set on a course for the ninth Planet but by the time it arrived Pluto had been kicked out of the Planets club and is now a Kuiper Belt Object or Dwarf Planet which must have caused much confused for horoscope writers around the World.      
As it is the first time we have had a close up look at Pluto, the first piece of information received by NASA was that it is ever so slightly bigger than we thought, having a diameter of 2,370km or just a touch over two third the size of the moon.
The first pictures show the expected pock marks of craters and as the probe gets closer before flying past onto the Kuiper Belt scientists are hoping it will clear up what is actually at it's dark pole.
Finally Pluto will get it's moment in the Sun, or not as it is 40 times further away than the earth from our star but anyway, the lonely little ball of ice and rock, last in the queue in the far flung reaches of our Solar System abandoned by the bigger boys and relegated to a dwarf planet is taking it's turn in the spotlight.

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