A Century of History

Solar Team Twente recently posted this photograph (by Jérôme Wassenaar) of the almost-100-year-old grandfather of a team member test-driving one of their older solar cars. This is what else the man has seen in his life:

  • 1997: the first Toyota Prius goes on sale in Japan
  • 1998: the first MP3 player goes on sale in the USA; also Google is founded
  • 2005: the first autonomous vehicles complete the DARPA Grand Challenge; also Solar Team Twente races in the World Solar Challenge for the first time
  • 2015: the New Horizons space probe makes the first visit to Pluto, 85 years after Pluto was discovered

Happy 100th Birthday in advance, Opa Mulder!

Mapping Pluto and Charon

Images from the New Horizons spaceprobe have been used to produce some wonderful (although incomplete) maps of Pluto (above) and Charon (below). The names are not yet official, although I must say I like the names “Balrog Macula,” “Cthulhu Regio,” and “Skywalker Crater.” Click the pictures to go to the hi-res versions.

Pictures from Pluto

The New Horizons spaceprobe (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute artist’s rendering above) is about to reach closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Below are two preliminary pictures of Pluto (left) and Charon (right) taken recently. Better images should be available very soon.

How did we get here? Below, summarising some of my past posts, are four pictures of Pluto taken by New Horizons over the last two years of its journey. There’s nothing like getting close and personal with a camera!

Closer and closer to Pluto

The New Horizons spaceprobe is now about 10 million km from Pluto, and zooming closer every day. A worrying glitch with communications has now been solved. Below is an animated colour image of Pluto and its moon Charon taken by New Horizons last month, but much better pictures can be expected in just a few days.

Dawn/New Horizons Update

The Dawn spaceprobe, now orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres, took the lovely photograph above a few days ago (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA). Click the image to zoom.

And here is a NASA/JPL-Caltech artist’s concept of Dawn’s ion thrusters in action. The xenon ions glow blue:

Meanwhile, the New Horizons spaceprobe is getting closer and closer to Pluto:

This means the pictures are getting better. As New Horizons looks towards Pluto and Charon, we are starting to see hints of surface features:

We can even see colours, although the pictures are still very fuzzy: