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Pluto Probe Makes Discoveries at Jupiter 125

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the only-wears-red-spot-on-special-occasions dept.
Riding with Robots writes "No, it's not an accident due to a metric-to-English-units error. In February, the New Horizons probe passed through the Jupiter system on its way to Pluto, and we saw some spectacular pictures. Now, the science teams have published detailed scientific results, along with new images and movies. The probe's instruments saw clouds form from ammonia welling up from Jupiter's lower atmosphere, and heat-induced lighting strikes in the polar regions, and fresh eruptions on the volcanic moon Io. New Horizons also captured the clearest images ever of the tenuous Jovian ring system, where scientists spotted clumps of debris that may indicate a recent impact inside the rings, or some more exotic phenomenon." I bet Neil DeGrasse Tyson will be on 7 Discovery channel specials talking about these new discoveries inside of the week. Hope he's nicer than he was to poor Pluto :)
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Pluto Probe Makes Discoveries at Jupiter

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  • bet Neil DeGrasse Tyson will be on 7 Discovery channel specials talking about these new discoveries inside of the week. Hope he's nicer than he was to poor Pluto :)
    Or those poor frozen chickens.
  • Oblig (Score:3, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @09:33AM (#20925601)
    All these worlds are yours.
    Except Europa.
    Attempt no landings there.
    • Re:Oblig (Score:5, Informative)

      by Phanatic1a (413374) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @09:53AM (#20925825)
      Did you catch a look at those Io shots?

      Jesus. We've sent, what, 5 probes close enough to get a look at Io, and every one of them saw significant vulcanism? Pretty safe bet then that it's erupting like that constantly, huge lakes of glowing lava and sulfur plumes 200 miles high.

      I'll take my chances with Europa.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)

        ...huge lakes of glowing lava and sulfur plumes 200 miles high.
        It's not that warm there. The vulcanism is due to tidal forces. More like lakes of liquid water and 200 foot plumes of vaporous methane.
        • More like lakes of liquid water and 200 foot plumes of vaporous methane.

          Sounds like a great place, eh!
          • by innerweb (721995)

            I'm going to solve the Earth's energy problem and get rich at the same time. All I need to do is build a trans-solar-system pipeline from that moon to the Earth to bring all of that beautiful methane here. Voila. No concerns for a very long time. As far as global warming goes, its a double win. Soon all of my Alaskan and Canadian beach front property on the northern shores will be prime warm vacation land. And to top it all off, I have a pipeline to attach a space elevator to to bring people up to the

        • Re:Oblig (Score:5, Informative)

          by locofungus (179280) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:07AM (#20926047)
          From the linked article:

          In addition, New Horizons spotted the infrared glow from at least 36 Io volcanoes, and measured lava temperatures up to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to many terrestrial volcanoes.

          Tim.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by volcanopele (537152)
            I should point out that the "at least 36 Io volcanoes" number comes from the LEISA instrument, a near-infrared detector on the New Horizons spacecraft and does not include the field of bright spots seen near the sub- and anti-Jovian points (the points on the surface of Io that point directly toward and away from Jupiter, respectively). These spots are likely caused by gases above volcanoes in this area excited by Jupiter magnetic field. They could still be active volcanoes, but their thermal emission is t
    • by aldo.gs (985038)
      It's always better than "All your worlds are belong to us".
    • by jagdish (981925)
      All these worlds are belong to us.
  • money well spent (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @09:40AM (#20925689)
    Whenever a camera is hurled near solar system big planets, it catches something interesting. We should establish permanent automatic research stations in orbit(s) of at least Jupiter, if not all of them. It is scientific treasure-trove.
    • This stuff is new only for us, otherwise it has been happening for millions of years.
      So, if a permanent automatic system was installed there, it would give us exactly the same day by day, year from year.
      • Actually, a research satellite in orbit around Jupiter would be useful for studying atmospheric processes there, which change on the order of days to decades.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by thsths (31372)
          > Actually, a research satellite in orbit around Jupiter would be useful for studying atmospheric processes there

          Ok, but who is going to listing to the Jupiter weather forecast? I would much rather have a reliable prediction for the weather right here during the week to come.
          • by StikyPad (445176)
            On the serious side, studying atmospheric phenomenon on other planets can give us a better understanding of our own weather.
      • Re:unlikely (Score:4, Interesting)

        by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:54AM (#20926739) Journal
        So, if a permanent automatic system was installed there, it would give us exactly the same day by day, year from year.

        Maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn't. We don't know. Does the vulcanism on Io go through seasonal variations? Does it only happen on Io, or are there other geologically active moons in orbit? The Cassini probe showed that we can park a satellite in orbit around these far planets, and obviously a permanently stationed device is going to give far more detailed data than one that's whizzing past. I think it's wasteful to launch these probes and have them leave the solar system when they could be inserted into orbit around a planet and give us years worth of useful data. As far as I know, apart from Earth, the only planets we have probes around are Mars and Saturn... and maybe Venus.
        • by quanticle (843097)

          We did have a probe parked around Jupiter for a while. It was called Galileo [wikipedia.org]. It spent 8 years documenting Jupiter before it was decommissioned by sending it into the Jovian atmosphere.

        • I think it's wasteful to launch these probes and have them leave the solar system when they could be inserted into orbit around a planet and give us years worth of useful data. As far as I know, apart from Earth, the only planets we have probes around are Mars and Saturn... and maybe Venus.

          While I agree with the first part of your post about the value of long-term observation, the quoted part of the comment is much easier said than done, especially for such a distant target as Pluto. New Horizons will fl

    • by quanticle (843097)

      Well, we already have something like that in the Cassini probe for Saturn. The issue with having a "permanent" research stations is lack of power. That far out, there is very little solar radiation, so power has to come from nuclear batteries, which have a limited lifespan.

      • by icebrain (944107)
        And we used to have Galileo [wikipedia.org] around Jupiter. The problem is not just lack of power (RTG's aren't the only things solar panels degrade, too...), but the spacecraft as a whole wears out. Micrometeoroid impacts, radiation (especially around Jupiter), and Mr. Murphy all take their toll. And sometimes, they just run out of fuel.
      • by Shadowmist (57488)
        That's also why Cassini took a lot longer to get to Saturn as opposed to the flyby Pioneers and Voyagers. It actually had to approach Saturn slowly enough so that it could perform orbital insertion with the deltav it could manage and still have fuel remaining for orbital maneuvers.
    • The point of the new horizons craft is to get out the Kuiper belt [wikipedia.org], Jupiter is just being used as a sling shot. Of course while your there why not take a few pictures...
    • Speaking of which, why don't probes ever have true color cameras? What's with all the false color images from probes?
      • by oatworm (969674)
        I don't know, but I would suspect it would be due to the relatively low levels of light out there. Since there isn't an atmosphere in space to diffuse light and since there is less sunlight out there anyways, I would think that looking at Jupiter with a normal camera with normal coloration would be akin to looking at a model of Jupiter at night in your bedroom.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        Speaking of which, why don't probes ever have true color cameras? What's with all the false color images from probes?

        Most probes don't use the same kind of color capture technique that "house cameras" offer. They use filters. If you want color, you take images under different filters (select a given wavelength to "see" with). This increases the sensativey range. New Horizons is certainly capable of using many filters to produce color images, but it may have had to weigh different factors. For one, NH does
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        Speaking of which, why don't probes ever have true color cameras? What's with all the false color images from probes?

        They often do have red/green/blue filters so that we can make true colour pictures out of them, but the thing is, true colour isn't very pertinent from a scientifical point of vue, the point of true colour is more to know what one would see there. It's more interesting to have filters that filter light at key wavelengths matching to absorption or emission of method or hydrogen, whatever mak

    • Re:money well spent (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rbanffy (584143) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @02:20PM (#20929877) Homepage Journal
      Galileo was pretty much a "permanent" monitoring station, at least as far as space probes go. It was around Jupiter from 1995 to 2003 and gathered a whole lot of information. So is Cassini around Saturn and Mars has a good couple of them orbiting it.

      That said, I agree it would be clever to design and assemble generic space probes with a generic instrument package and launch them towards some promising targets. If we can assemble a dozen of simple probes (or modular ones - i.e. inner solar system solar power module x deep space RTG power, custom instrument packages) instead of one twelve times more complex and launch them towards interesting targets it would give us a lot of coverage on a lot of other nearby objects for the same price (and in far less time). If something turns out to be more than an uninteresting lump of rock or ice, we could always send another probe with a custom instrument package. And, if the original one still has propellant on board, it could always be re-missioned to something else.

      Maybe we could focus not on "Back to the Moon", "See Pluto" and "Probe Mars" specific projects and create a continuous exploration infrastructure that could serve us well for decades. If we focus too much on learning how to build a better spacecraft while building the spacecraft, the exploration becomes the least interesting thing in the project. If we focus more on the destination than on the vehicle, chances are we will get spacecrafts out to the launch pad on less time, within budget and more frequently than today. And by building more of them, launching more of them and testing more of them, we will end up learning just as much about how to build a better spacecraft.

      This one-off custom-designed space probe business can become costly real quick.
      • by Tablizer (95088)
        Galileo was pretty much a "permanent" monitoring station, at least as far as space probes go. It was around Jupiter from 1995 to 2003 and gathered a whole lot of information.

        But Galileo did have a big antenna problem that greately reduced the amount and detail of images it could send back. Bleep happens.

        But as far as "more permanent", there are two major limiting factors. The first is propellant to navigate the moons. Without navigation propellant you are limited from the different targets you can examine
      • by dbIII (701233)

        This one-off custom-designed space probe business can become costly real quick.

        Compare it to launch costs. It's worth spending a bit extra so you have exactly what you want and no more instead of spending a lot extra getting extra mass out there. A "standard model" also implies that you have a very good tried and tested design and not continous improvement.

    • by Pearson (953531)
      I absolutely don't understand their approach at all. Putting a satellite into orbit around each and every planet in the solar system should be one of their top priorities. The costs are small enough that it should be an ongoing process to replace each one as they wear out, without affecting any of the other programs at NASA. And as you mention, the return on investment is ridiculously high.

      Compare that with the ISS which, while cool, can't compare on ROI.
    • Permanent is a bit much. Sending new missions from time to time would be a good idea. Permanent is kind of like saying that the computer you buy today is the one you will use indefinitely. After a while, you don't get the returns as you used to.

      Science instruments improve at a rapid pace, and I think this is why New Horizons found things that Galileo did not.

      I think there is something going there in the 2010s that will replace the Galileo mission. It's going to have 10x the scientific payload, 10x the
    • A mission is now being planned to orbit Jupiter and study its weather and other features over a sustained period: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2005-090 [nasa.gov]
    • That is basically what the probes are albeit in a limited way. They cannot survive indefinitely because of the intense radiation in the space immediately around and out to a large distance of Jupiter. Even if the radiation problem could be solved, the orbit of Jupiter is too far out for solar panels to be very effective (i.e. extremely large area of panels would be needed) and nuclear batteries, while compact and long lasting, are none the less a finite energy resource. The current technology does not allow
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @09:47AM (#20925759) Homepage
    ... the IAU has decided that Jupiter is not a planet.
  • Hope he's nicer than he was to poor Pluto :)

    Look this whole Anthropic Principle is getting ridiculous...
  • Yes, but where's the monolith? It has the opening to the wormhole that leads to the solar system where we achieve enlightenment. It must be true, I saw it on TV.
    • by Tablizer (95088)
      Yes, but where's the monolith? It has the opening to the wormhole that leads to the solar system where we achieve enlightenment. It must be true, I saw it on TV.

      I saw lots of little monoliths with white spots on a table in Vegas. Vegas is where the enlightenment is. They free you from your money so that you can focus on your inner self.
           
  • You know (Score:2, Funny)

    by JanneM (7445)

    I bet Neil DeGrasse Tyson will be on 7 Discovery channel specials talking about these new discoveries inside of the week.
    You know, if he would happen to disappear, a victim of foul play, and his body found long after the crime, the forensic people need to be thourough. If they want to determine when he died by looking at the amount of mold on the body they need to turn it over; DeGrasse is always greener on the other side.
  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:40AM (#20926503) Homepage
    I mean, each paper sounds completely intriguing:

    Polar Lightning and Decadal-Scale Cloud Variability on Jupiter
    Kevin H. Baines, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

    Io Volcanism Seen by New Horizons: A Major Eruption of the Tvashtar Volcano
    John R. Spencer, Southwest Research Institute

    Clump Detections and Limits on Moons in Jupiter's Ring System
    Mark R. Showalter, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute

    Jupiter Cloud Composition, Stratification, Convection & Wave Motion: A View from New Horizons
    Dennis C. Reuter, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Io's Atmospheric Response to Eclipse: UV Aurorae Observations
    Kurt D. Retherford, Southwest Research Institute

    Energetic Particles in the Jovian Magnetotail
    Ralph L. McNutt Jr., Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

    Diverse Plasma Populations and Structures in Jupiter's Magnetotail
    David J. McComas, Southwest Research Institute

    New Horizons Mapping of Europa and Ganymede
    William M. Grundy, Lowell Observatory

    Jupiter's Nightside Airglow and Aurora
    G. Randall Gladstone, Southwest Research Institute

    These are all highly fascinating subjects each worth a read let alone the fantastic gallery: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/gallery/sciencePhotos.html [jhuapl.edu]

    I completely support the New Horizons team, they're doing amazing things from behind a computer screen. Something I honestly wish I could do.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192)
      So here's what I don't understand. They captured some beautiful images the fluid dynamics of gasses mixing in jupiter's atmosphere. How is it that these gasses can keep mixing and not reach equilibrium? I see the same schlieren patterns if I add some glycerol to some H2O and invert the tube a couple times. But invert it a little more and they're gone. What is jupiter doing to keep its atmosphere from doing the same? Are some of the gasses in its atmosphere immiscible or something?
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        They probably will. It will just take a couple more billion years, so, be patient.
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        Get yourself a Jupiter-sized test tube, a few billion years to observe, and you'll have your answer.
    • And of course the most interesting is Io Volcanism Seen by New Horizons: A Major Eruption of the Tvashtar Volcano :) Not that I am biased or anything ;) (in the interest of full disclosure, I'm author number 11).
  • I'm watching 'Passport to Pluto.... and Beyond' on the Science channel, they've been talking about the Jupiter flyby for the last five minutes or so. Interesting stuff. No... Dr. Tyson wasn't a part of the program. ;) It's towards the end, so if any of you have TSC, keep an eye out for it.
  • Are obviously a result of global warming. You can now understand the impact our cars have on the environment.
  • by Boronx (228853) <evonreis@mohr-enginee r i ng.com> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @12:50PM (#20928553) Homepage Journal
    Jupiter's not a system, he's a god ... a scoundrel. He'll smite you for calling him a system.
  • is the contrast between the amazing photos and sophisticated graphics and the Powerpoint 95 quality of the rest of the presentation. This slide (http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/pictures/100907_pressGraphics/files/Stern/SternHi-Res/Stern_11.jpg [jhuapl.edu]) could almost be a cat macro.
  • by PPH (736903)
    Did the creators of this probe know of Pluto's demotion from planetary status at the time of its launch? Maybe they should just turn it around and bring it home.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • I used to add documentaries to my DVD collection quite regularly. But then I discovered that the once sacred world of the documentary is gradually being overtaken by the plague of the lowest common denominator. And this fellow, Tyson, seems to be the go-to guy for covering that bracket of the audience. His narration and explanations are always, ALWAYS simplistic - the sort of dialog anyone who watches the Science Channel could have provided if prompted. It never fails to make me feel dumb just watching
    • Tyson is horrible. The thing you have to remember is that he's not really a scientist - he's a planetarium director. OK, he has some name-brand degrees (Columbia PhD in Astrophysics), but then George Bush has a degree from Yale, so that's not a good measure of anything. Tyson claims to do research, but someone needs to point me to a paper he's written to demonstrate that he can legitimately be called a scientist.
      • by Abcd1234 (188840)
        Will this do [amnh.org]? Hell, I all I had to do was type '"Neil DeGrasse Tyson" papers' into Google. So, are you dumb, or just lazy?
        • by alienmole (15522)
          I'm neither dumb nor lazy, but I'm critical. Examine the papers at the link you gave. Numbers 13 and 11 have a long list of contributors not listed in alphabetical order, and Tyson is last, implying the least significant contribution. The last paper he's listed as a primary author on is in 1993, two years after he received his PhD. At best, you could say he had a very short career as a scientist of minimal significance, after which he became a planetarium director and moved into science popularization (
          • by Abcd1234 (188840)
            At best, you could say he had a very short career as a scientist of minimal significance

            No, at best you could say you're wrong, and apparently incapable of admitting it. The fact is, he is a scientist, and he does have published papers. Whether you consider his contributions suitably "significant" is a separate and unrelated matter. Nice try attempting to reframe the debate, though.
            • by alienmole (15522)
              Not "is" a scientist. "Was" a scientist, briefly. Perhaps we have different definitions of "scientist", but in my book a planetarium director is not ipso facto a scientist, even if he manages to get his named tacked onto the end of some papers presumably as a kind of favor to the PR guy from the real scientists.
              • by Abcd1234 (188840)
                even if he manages to get his named tacked onto the end of some papers presumably as a kind of favor to the PR guy from the real scientists.

                So now you're going to start doling out baseless accusations? Nice. Very "scientific" of you.
      • by Shadowmist (57488)
        An astrophysics degree isn't something to brush off, and neither is Columbia University. and the Rose center isn't just any planetarium if you've seen what they've done to the place. Tyson is a good presence on camera and a good storyteller. It was kind of amusing to have him show the letters he was getting from all the schoolchildren trying to convince him to bring Pluto back to planet status. I'm with him and the IAU on this one, as I have a strong suspicion that when we take a good look at the Kuipe
        • by alienmole (15522)
          I think Tyson is a pretty good planetarium director, judging by the Rose Center. Although even that, for me, has a feel of style over substance, which matches Tyson's personality (but I don't know to what extent he was directly responsible for the nature of the overhaul). I appreciate the architectural and design elements, but the target audience of both the planetarium and Tyson's science popularization seems to be relentlessly stuck at a low grade-school level.

          I think if Tyson were a real scientist, he'
          • by Shadowmist (57488)

            I think if Tyson were a real scientist, he'd recognize that the fuss over the designation "planet" is too arbitrary to be worth worrying much about, and it's silly to take a strong position on one side or the other *except* for tradition's sake. His position thus makes little sense, and it's telling that this is an issue that he chooses to take a stand on.

            If you've listened to him speak on various occasions, he's said repeatedly that this whole thing is much more about politics than science. (the biggest push to keep Pluto's old status comes from the USA which doesn't want to lose the distinction of the only planet to be discovered by an American)

            You're wrong however that he should ignore it. The American Museum is one of the most prestigous faces of science to the general public. As he and others have pointed out, the Pluto controversy is an enormous l

            • by alienmole (15522)

              As he and others have pointed out, the Pluto controversy is an enormous learning opportunity

              If it's necessary to use something as irrelevant as this as an excuse to inform the public about science, the battle is already lost. This sort of thing is an example of, if you'll excuse the cliche, "the soft bigotry of low expectations". If you don't challenge your audience and don't expect them to know or want to learn more than they should have learned by fourth grade, you're not achieving anything useful and

              • by Shadowmist (57488)
                Then there's the bigotry of "minimum expectations" an issue does not need to be of cosmic dire significance to be a learning opportunity. There's a tremendous amount of public interest in Pluto's status, irregardless of it's scientific significance. As an institution of public learning, it's an appropriate forum for this issue. Tyson had Pluto removed from the planetary display in response to the IAU stance on Pluto. This led to a lot of local and not so local response to his action. It would be the h
                • by alienmole (15522)

                  Then there's the bigotry of "minimum expectations" an issue does not need to be of cosmic dire significance to be a learning opportunity.

                  No, but it should be worth learning about. There may have been public interest in Pluto's status, but there's also public interest in Paris Hilton and OJ Simpson. Tyson catered to that public interest in exactly the same way as any media whore responds to public attention, with no noticeable attempt to redirect the conversation to anything more substantial. The alleged

                  • by Shadowmist (57488)
                    At this point, I think we've both have come to the unbridgeable gulf wherein no further progress can be made in this thread, so I'll simply agree to disagree.
                    • Darn! And just when I was hoping someone would post an equation or two in their defense. (/humourous quip)

                      Although you both disagree, I have to say the thread has given me pause to contemplate the ethics of professionalism, how we term ourselves and how such things are measured. It's a real concern for me, who must honestly admit my best work was done when I was considerably younger. At what point must I characterise myself as "once was..." on my resume?

                    • by Shadowmist (57488)
                      That's the nature of physics in general. the pioneering work you do is generally done in the pre-40 range with most of the rest of your life spent refining your own work or others. I think someone on Nova once categorised the Institute of Advanced Physics at Princeton as a "retirement home for great minds".

                      As to the answer on your resume. I think the "once was" is still bs despite what I said. People like Einstein, Sagan, and Tyson in thier dotage still manage better than many in thier prime. It's n
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      In other words, you disapprove of documentaries targeted at the layman, and presume to judge anyone who would create one. How very elitist of you. I can only assume you take issue with individuals such as Carl Sagan?
    • I find Michio Kaku annoying in much the way as you describe for Tyson, though (so far?) I have no problem with Tyson himself.

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