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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Kuiper Belt or bust

Kuiper Belt or bust

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, July 15, 2015/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, environment, adventure

               Pluto Encounter Celebrations at New Horizons Headquarters  (credit: NASA)

The New Horizons probe successfully sailed past Pluto capturing photographs and scientific measurement as it flew by the dwarf planet. It was a spectacular bit of space adventure and exploration at the edge of the solar system. The craft has now sped off into the Kuiper Belt, an unknown region where even more discoveries should come. The jubilant New Horizons team that managed the craft for a decade received a video greeting from a special physicist who has made a few space discoveries of his own and who was watching the project closely. 

  Stephen Hawking congratulates the New Horizons Team  (credit: NASA)

The first images from the Pluto encounter are being received with more to follow in the weeks and months to come. According to the first analysis, a close-up of Pluto's equator region reveals a range of icy mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet above the surface of the icy body. The mountains appear quite young geologically having likely formed no more than 100 million years ago. This compares to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system. The mountains may still be in the process of building by some unknown process.and are covered with water, nitrogen, and methane ice and snow..

           Pluto Equatorial Mountains and Companion Moon Charon (credit: New Horizons)

New Horizons has now entered the  Kuiper Belt  , a strange and unknown region where the 'left-overs' from the solar system's formation float around. Additional dwarf planets like Pluto will be observed by the piano-size probe and even possibly the suggested  Planet X  that might exist somewhere in this fringing zone. That would really cause some celebrations at the NASA headquarters.


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