Feeds

Hubble peers closely at Pluto

Pics reveal ice and molasses

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NASA has released "the most detailed and dramatic images ever taken of the distant dwarf planet Pluto", captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, which reveal an "icy, mottled, dark molasses-colored world":

Hubble views of Pluto. Pic: NASA

NASA explains that Pluto's overall hue is "believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto's surface, leaving behind a dark and red carbon-rich residue".

The above photos are constructed from multiple snaps taken in 2002 and 2003*, and when compared to Hubble images captured in 1994, show that Pluto's surface has undergone significant "seasonal changes".

NASA explains: "Pluto has become significantly redder, while its illuminated northern hemisphere is getting brighter. These changes are most likely consequences of surface ices sublimating on the sunlit pole and then refreezing on the other pole as the dwarf planet heads into the next phase of its 248-year-long seasonal cycle."

The agency singles out the 180° view as of special interest, since it shows "a mysterious bright spot that is unusually rich in carbon monoxide frost". This is now a "prime target" for the New Horizons flyby in 2015, during which the spacecraft will have a single chance to capture one of Pluto's hemispheres as it whizzes past the dwarf planet.

The Hubble pictures will accordingly aid NASA in picking the best viewpoint for New Horizons, while helping scientists to calculate optimum exposure for the spacecraft's camera.

NASA has more on the new images here. ®

Bootnote

* NASA elaborates: "The Hubble images are a few pixels wide. But through a technique called dithering, multiple, slightly offset pictures can be combined through computer-image processing to synthesize a higher-resolution view than could be seen in a single exposure."

Investigator Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: "This has taken four years and 20 computers operating continuously and simultaneously to accomplish."

Planetary politics bootnote

NASA describes Pluto as "arguably one of the public's favorite planetary objects". We'd argue that this is only true for some residents of Illinois, who are still hacked off by the International Astronomical Union's 2006 decision to boot the object out of the league of proper planets.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.