Images are continuing to come in from the New Horizons mission. Several fairly high resolution images have been published so far and we’re now seeing lots of geological features on the surface of Pluto.
New Horizons has reported back after its Pluto encounter, and it looks like everything was successful. It should start transmitting science data back soon, although it will take a long time for all the data to get back. Hopefully we’ll start seeing some of the initial results soon.
The New Horizons probe is rapidly approaching Pluto, and will pass by the planet early Tuesday morning (in the US). Because of the distance, everything has to be automated since any signals from Earth will take hours to reach the probe. The most important data from the mission will be taken as the probe flies by the planet, but it will need to be slowly transmitted back over a pretty long period of time. The bandwidth for getting data across the solar system isn’t very good.
The ESA has announced that the Philae lander from the Rosetta spacecraft has turned back on. When the lander ended up in a spot on the comet that got little light, it was feared that it wouldn’t have enough power to turn back on once it was in a more favorable orientation. It looks like the lander at least has enough power to transmit data. Hopefully it also has enough power to continue its science mission.
The New York Times has a long article on the “Event Horizon Telescope,” a project using a number of large telescope facilities to try to find conclusive evidence for the existence of the black hole believed to be at the center of the Milky Way. The article talks a bit about the science goals but also a lot on the history of such work and the people who do it. There are also some really nice images in the article and a couple related articles. Finding better evidence for black holes would be hugely important because it might let astronomers test some of the predictions of general relativity.
There’s apparently now a great deal of controversy over the proposed construction of a new telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. While the project was approved several years ago, some Native Hawaiian are attempting to stop construction and so far have been successful in delaying things. The Times is calling on the governor to step in to try to resolve the controversy rather than leave things where they are now – with the governor not really making any meaningful statement while the project is stuck in some sort of limbo where it is approved but can’t be built.
NASA’s Messenger probe ended its decade-long mission by crashing into the surface of Mercury. It had been orbiting Mercury for about four years and had spent that time studying various properties of the planet. Apparently, in recent months, the Messenger team had positioned the probe to bring its orbit very close to the surface. Doing this requires fuel, and the probe finally ran out of fuel, forcing it to crash into the surface.