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Science News Staff

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Science Ticker

The wait for more Pluto data is almost over


Several weeks after its flyby of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft will begin sending data back to Earth on September 5.

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Get ready, we’re about to be inundated with postcards from Pluto. On September 5, the New Horizons spacecraft, now more than 62 million kilometers beyond Pluto, will begin a roughly year-long download of all the data it acquired during its brief visit with the dwarf planet in July. Only a few percent of that data was sent to Earth shortly after the encounter.

It’s about time. Without new images and spectra to pore over, a few creative Pluto fans have taken to piecing together their own visions — based on the few images available — of what New Horizons saw as it tore past its target at nearly 50,000 kilometers per hour.

One cinematic recreation comes from planetary scientist Stuart Robbins, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. Robbins used the latest and greatest information available on Pluto’s orbit, shape, and even the lighting to simulate what the flyby looked like for an astronaut hitching a ride on New Horizons: 

A similar view comes from long-time planetary artist Björn Jónsson, who has a particular interest in simulating Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere:

Gennady Ionov shows us what we would see while staring through New Horizons’ long-range camera the entire time, with a bit of artistic license thrown in as Pluto eclipsed its largest moon, Charon (the spacecraft was busy doing other things at the time):

Finally, Pluto and Charon frantically wobble about one another in an animation pieced together from navigation images by Matthew Earl. The dwarf planet and its largest satellite orbit a point in the space between them — clearly seen in Earl’s contribution — leading some planetary scientists to think of Pluto and Charon as the solar system’s only binary planet.

Paleontology,, Animals,, Evolution

New dolphin fossil makes a splash

By Helen Thompson 6:00am, September 2, 2015
A newly discovered dolphin fossil provides clues to the evolution of river dolphins in the Americas.
Cells,, Technology

New microscope techniques give deepest view yet of living cells

By Tina Hesman Saey 7:00am, August 31, 2015
Two new microscopy techniques are helping scientists see smaller structures in living cells than ever glimpsed before.
Planetary Science

Life after Pluto: New Horizons to head for Kuiper belt boulder

By Christopher Crockett 7:20pm, August 28, 2015
The New Horizons spacecraft has a second target in the Kuiper belt: an icy boulder dubbed 2014 MU69.

Tropical songbirds get their growth spurt late

By Allison Bohac 2:00pm, August 27, 2015
Tropical songbirds are late bloomers, but that delayed development may give them an advantage after leaving the nest.
Planetary Science

Mountains, craters revealed in latest images of dwarf planet Ceres

By Christopher Crockett 7:59am, August 27, 2015
The Dawn spacecraft sent back postcards from Ceres that show off the dwarf planet’s varied terrain.
Clinical Trials,, Health

Earlier is better for HIV treatment

By Nathan Seppa 5:00pm, August 26, 2015
People infected with HIV benefit from starting a drug regimen early, an international study finds.
Health,, Evolution,, Animals

Virus closely related to hepatitis A discovered in seals

By Sarah Schwartz 10:17am, August 25, 2015
Scientists have discovered a relative of the hepatitis A virus in seals.
Animals,, Ecology

Chimps keep numbers high as forest losses mount

By Bruce Bower 8:00pm, August 24, 2015
African apes show surprising resilience in face of forest destruction.
Planetary Science

Flyby of Dione yields stunning pictures of icy Saturn moon

By Christopher Crockett 5:09pm, August 24, 2015
Saturn’s moon Dione shows off its ripping landscapes during the Cassini spacecraft’s final flyby.
Immune Science,, Health

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise

By Nathan Seppa 2:00pm, August 19, 2015
An experimental vaccine against the MERS virus triggers immune protection, a new study finds.
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