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NASA spacecraft hurtles toward tiny, icy world beyond Pluto

NASA spacecraft hurtles toward tiny, icy world beyond Pluto

Technology
The NASA spacecraft that yielded the first close-up views of Pluto hurtled toward a New Year's Day rendezvous with a tiny, icy world a billion miles farther out, in what would make it the most distant cosmic body ever explored by humankind. New Horizons was on course to fly past the mysterious, ancient object nicknamed Ultima Thule at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday. The close encounter comes 3½ years after the spacecraft swung past Pluto. This time, the drama was set to unfold more than 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, so far away that it will be 10 hours before flight controllers at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel find out whether the probe survived the flyby. A few black-and-white pictures of Ultima Thule might be available following that ...
Scientists find methane ice dunes on Pluto

Scientists find methane ice dunes on Pluto

Science
June 1 (UPI) -- Scientists have discovered dunes on Pluto's surface, which are likely to have been formed of methane ice grains released into its atmosphere. The discovery, outlined in a study published in the journal Science, suggests that Pluto's surface is more geologically diverse and dynamic than scientists previously expected. The role of its tenuous, low-pressure atmosphere in shaping the landscape is still unclear. An international team of geographers, physicists and planetary scientists analyzed detailed images of the dwarf planet's surface from July 2015, captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. The images showed that on the boundary of the Sputnik Planitia ice plain, pushed up against a major mountain range, there is a series of dunes spreading across an area less than 46.6...
Methane ice dunes found on Pluto by Nasa spacecraft

Methane ice dunes found on Pluto by Nasa spacecraft

Science
Scientists say they have found evidence of dunes of frozen methane on Pluto. The research, which is published in the journal Science, suggests that the distant world is more dynamic than previously thought. Pluto's atmosphere was believed to be too thin to create the features familiar in deserts on Earth.The findings come from analysis of the startling images sent back by Nasa's New Horizons mission, which flew close to Pluto in July 2015.After an epic trek through the Solar System that took nearly a decade, New Horizons sped by at a speed of 58,536 km/h (36,373 mph), gathering data as it passed.In their study, the researchers explain how they studied pictures of a plain known as Sputnik Planitia, parts of which are covered with ...