Pluto’s Changing Face

A full rotational sequence of Pluto's surface (NASA -- Hubble Space Telescope)

This coming month (on March 18th) we’ll celebrate the 80th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto by Kansan Clyde Tombaugh. But in the entire span of time since its discovery, Pluto has completed less than a third of its 248-year circuit about the sun.

We’ll learn a great deal more about Pluto when the New Horizons probe approaches the “dwarf planet” five years from now (for details see the New Horizons Mission Website.) Even now, however, we’re learning more about seasonal changes on the surface of that tiny, distant world.

The Hubble Space Telescope has secured a number of extraordinary images evincing those seasonal changes transpiring on Pluto, as reported by NASA in New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes . (See also the NASA press release on the topic.) The images have evoked commentary from a variety of interested parties from the BBC News (see Pluto’s Dynamic Surface Revealed By Hubble Images) and New Scientist (see Sharpest Ever Images of Pluto Show Mottled World) to Scientific American (see New Hubble Maps Show a Changing Pluto) and Science Daily (see New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes).

You’ll find a short video of Pluto’s rotation and changes here.

And for more on Pluto, you can visit our earlier posts Is Earth a Planet? and Pluto’s Anniversary.

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  

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