okt 102013
Orbital Ballet of Pluto's Moons Hint of Long-Ago Collisions

  A large impact 4 billion years ago may account for the puzzling orbital configuration among Pluto’s five known satellites, according to a new model developed by planetary scientists from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). Pluto’s moonsystem. Image Credit: NASA/ESA Starting with Charon, Pluto’s nearest and largest moon, each of the successively more distant — and much [continue reading]

apr 012013
Pluto's Undiscovered Satellites

  In 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will encounter the binary planet Pluto-Charon and its coterie of small satellites. Discovered in June 2005, the satellites Nix and Hydra orbit Pluto-Charon at distances roughly 40 times (Nix) and 55 times (Hydra) larger than the radius of Pluto. Two other satellites, now known as P4 and P5, [continue reading]

sep 292012
A New Tool for Exoplanet Discoveries

  Despite being infamously demoted from its status as a major planet, Pluto (and its largest companion Charon) recently posed as a surrogate extrasolar planetary system to help astronomers produce exceptionally high-resolution images with the Gemini North 8-meter telescope. Using a method called reconstructive speckle imaging, the researchers took the sharpest ground-based snapshots ever obtained [continue reading]

mei 222012
Captured Planets

  The discovery of planets around other stars has led to the realization that alien solar systems often have bizarre features – at least they seem bizarre to us because they were so unexpected. For example, many systems have giant planets closer to their star than Mercury is to the Sun, while other have the [continue reading]