The New Horizons space mission continues to show researchers the immensity of secrets that lay on space, the investigation that aimed to understand dwarf planet Pluto has been renovated for a larger period of investigation. 

For decades researchers, scientists and astronomers were thrilled to investigate and understand the secrets that laid under the controversial dwarf planet Pluto since it was first discovered in 1930. The five-moon dwarf planet was shown the advances of interstellar science. Pluto, who obtained its name thanks to an 11-year-old English child, has gained controversy on its reclassification as a dwarf planet. The science community it’s still debating whether it’s a large planet or a dwarf planet.

The dwarf planet Pluto offers a particular sight to behold as its mountains go from foggy hazes to frozen plains. Image Credit: NASA
The dwarf planet Pluto offers a particular sight to behold as its mountains go from foggy hazes to frozen plains. Image Credit: NASA

On January 2006, NASA released it’s New Horizons space mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida, seeking to understand the objects and planets on Kuiper’s belt, but especially to perform flybys and collect information about Pluto.

It wasn’t until December 2014, that NASA’s mission encountered Pluto and began its investigation on the dwarf planet, and since then science has learned several aspects of the previously unknown planet.

Almost $1 billion invested by NASA

The mission cost NASA around $700 million during the years it has functioned with the collaboration of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and it’s head investigator Alan Stern from the Southwest Research Institute. It took ten years for the piano-sized spacecraft to arrive near the dwarf planet, since then the craft has taken thousands of pictures of the planet allowing scientists to determine and study closely the characteristics of the strange dwarf planet.

NASA is now celebrating it’s one-year encounter with the dwarf planet, thanks to the New Horizon’s mission and the discoveries that have come with it.

New Horizons mission  

When the mission began Pluto was still considered a planet, rather than a dwarf planet and the main mission was to investigate the only unknown and unexplored planet in our Solar System.

The name “New Horizons” comes from the planet’s satellites initial Nix and Hydra and the mythological connection between those name’s and Pluto’s names  Further investigations, made the understanding of the planet and of Kuiper belt’s, its main mission. Researchers aimed to understand the surface of the dwarf planet, it’s structured, solar wind’s interaction with Pluto’s atmosphere, gather information of its composition,between others.

Findings from the Mission to Pluto has researchers at NASA baffled and excited. Needless to say, the dark and dwarf planet is coming to light. Image Credit: IBT

NASA has learned the dwarf planet has a temperature of -230 Celsius degrees and that a human body would weigh less on the dwarf planet that in our home planet Earth. As well as, the planet’s ice cold mountains and dramatic blue skies.

“We learned that Pluto is alive. It’s an active planet, there are processes going on, it’s surface is constantly changing. There are flowing glaciers of frozen nitrogen on Pluto, winds, and signs of an ancient volcano,” said Richard Binzel, who has worked with the project from the beginning.

Recently, NASA has extended the New Mission mission to perform a deeper investigation in the dwarf planet and keep learning from it. NASA is also expanding the mission to explore Kuiper’s Belt and it’s small bodies.

Pluto’s findings

When investigating the dwarf planet, researchers found that Pluto had several mountains on it0s surface that reached 11,000 feet, as well as the presence of nitrogen and methane on Pluto’s surface.Scientists have suspected the planet’s mountains might be formed of watery ice.

One of the most famous and recently known facts about Pluto is its heart-shaped section called Tombaugh Reggio, covered on carbon monoxide and several other components, yet to be determined. Images from the Hubble telescope, have also discovered Pluto’s crust contains organic molecules considered as “complex” by scientists. Researchers have determined, after comparing pictures, the planet’s surface has changed colors, turning redder over time.

Despite the numerous discoveries researchers have understood about the dwarf planet, there’s still a long way to go. That’s why the New Horizon’s mission was renewed, to answer many questions about the cold planet.

Scientists want to know, how do seasons work on the dwarf planet and the way they work, since preliminary investigations have determined Pluto has very long seasons that last over millions of years. Researchers have only learned the basic facts from the dwarf planet, yet the renovation of the mission also expands science eyes to the Kuiper Belt and the objects in it.

Source: Boston Globe