- Historic results from the New Horizons mission are due to be revealed in a briefing at 20:00 BST
- They will include close-up photos of Pluto and its biggest moon Charon
- Nasa’s spacecraft soared past Pluto on Tuesday and first “phoned home” at 01:52 BST Wednesday
- The image taken just before the flyby already shows the dwarf planet in unprecedented detail
— jonkeegan (@jonkeegan) July 15, 2015
LAUREL, Md. — Nola Taylor Redd reports: With less than 24 hours to go before NASA’s New Horizons probe makes its close flyby of Pluto, scientists are already learning more about the dwarf planet than ever before, including the fact that it is bigger than previously thought.
New Horizons’ latest views of Pluto have shown the dwarf planet to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) across, making it the largest body in the icy Kuiper Belt at the edge of the solar system. The observations also confirmed the presence of a polar ice cap on Pluto, and measured three of the dwarf planet’s moons.
“Pluto is not disappointing,” said principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, during a NASA briefing here today (July 13).
As New Horizons closes in, the spacecraft made the most precise measurements to date of Pluto’s size using methods similar to those employed by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft. The new diameter of the dwarf planet makes it larger than fellow Kuiper Belt denizen Eris, which is 1,445 miles (2,326 km) in diameter.
Previous estimates for the size of Pluto had put its radius at 1,430 miles (2,301 km). But Pluto now stands as the undisputed king of the Kuiper Belt.
“This settles the debate about the largest object in the Kuiper Belt,” Stern said. Read the rest of this entry »