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In 2015, the New Horizons mission became the first robotic spacecraft to conduct a flyby of Pluto. In so doing, the probe managed to capture stunning photos and valuable data on what was once considered to be the ninth planet of the Solar System (and to some, still is) and its moons. Years later, scientists are still poring over the data to see what else they can learn about the Pluto-Charon system.
For instance, the mission science team at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) recently made an interesting discovery about Pluto and Charon. Based on images acquired by the New Horizons spacecraft of some small craters on their surfaces, the team indirectly confirmed something about the Kuiper Belt could have serious implications for our models of Solar System formation.
Study - Findings - Journal - Science - Kelsi
The study that describes their findings, which recently appeared in the journal Science, was led by Kelsi Singer – the co-investigator of the New Horizons mission from the SwRI. She was joined by researchers from NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), the Lowell Observatory, the SETI Institute’s Carl Sagan Center, and multiple universities.
To recap, the Kuiper Belt is a large belt of icy bodies and planetoids that orbit the Solar System beyond Neptune, extending from a distance of 30 AU to approximately 50 AU. Much like the Main Asteroid Belt, it contains many small bodies, all of which are remnants from the formation of the Solar System. The main difference is that the Kuiper Belt is much larger, being 20 times as wide and up to 200 times as massive.
Data - Spacecraft - Long - Range - Reconnaissance
After consulting data from the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), the New Horizons team found that there were fewer craters on the surfaces of Pluto and Charon than expected. This finding implies that there are very few objects in...
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