In 2006, I had the privilege of attending two conferences in England (the 11th International Command & Control Research & Technology Symposium in Cambridge and the Complex Adaptive Systems and Interacting Agents Workshop in Oxford).
This was the year that NASA launched the New Horizons spaceprobe towards Pluto (it was to arrive in 2015). Ironically, later in 2006, the International Astronomical Union somewhat controversially downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a “dwarf planet.”
That year also marked the debut of the soap opera Dallas and the comic strip Garfield. In science, James Christy at the United States Naval Observatory discovered Pluto’s moon Charon. We finally got a good look at it in 2015:
In computing, the Turing Award went to Robert Floyd, for his work in programming languages and algorithms. Intel introduced the 8086, the first of the x86 microprocessors which are still the most common CPUs in personal computers and laptops today. The game Space Invaders also had its debut:
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.
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!
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.
The Dawn spaceprobe, en route to the dwarf planet Ceres, took the images above on February 19, at a distance of 46,000 km (images processed by NASA to enhance clarity). The image below (click for up-to-date pictures) shows a simulated view from just behind Dawn.