NASA's Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
December 27, 2005
This past week was a busy one. Mission operations practices continued, as did engineering paperwork closeouts. Other major activities included:
In other news of the week, New Horizons science team collaborator Marc Buie and four coworkers submitted a research paper to The Astronomical Journal describing some new results about Pluto's just-discovered small satellites, which have been temporarily dubbed "P1" and "P2." You can find this paper posted on the Web at: http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/astro-ph/0512491.
In brief, Buie et al. faintly detected P1 and P2 in almost two dozen Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto made in 2002. They then used that data to refine the orbits of the new satellites. They also managed to eke out colors for the two moons: P1 is neutrally colored, but P2 is red. Why are they different? No one knows, but variety is the spice of life, and these new results indicate New Horizons is going to see a lot of that when it visits the Pluto system.
The holidays upon us now are providing a well-earned break for most of the New Horizons team. With that break, also comes a time of reflection. We are very proud of the spacecraft and launcher we built and tested in 2005, and we are even prouder to think that we're so close to flying the capstone mission in the initial reconnaissance of the planets.
I'll post my next update right after the start of the new year. See you then.
-- Alan Stern