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NASA's Horizons Spacecraft To Probe Pluto Moon For Underground Ocean 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the finding-water dept.
An anonymous reader writes NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is moving towards Pluto to explore Charon, one of Pluto's moons. The aim of the mission is to search of evidence of an ancient underground ocean on the moon. "Our model predicts different fracture patterns on the surface of Charon depending on the thickness of its surface ice, the structure of the moon's interior and how easily it deforms, and how its orbit evolved," said Alyssa Rhoden of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "By comparing the actual New Horizons observations of Charon to the various predictions, we can see what fits best and discover if Charon could have had a subsurface ocean in its past, driven by high eccentricity."
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NASA's Horizons Spacecraft To Probe Pluto Moon For Underground Ocean

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  • Ocean of what (Score:5, Informative)

    by rossdee (243626) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:43AM (#47245317)

    Here on Earth we think of Oceans of water, but way out at Pluto's orbit it could be something esle (ammonia, methane, hydrogen, nitrogen...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here on Earth we think of Oceans of water, but way out at Pluto's orbit it could be something esle (ammonia, methane, hydrogen, nitrogen...

      Hydrocarbons? Maybe we can liberate them from their oppressive Government.... ;)

    • by dbIII (701233) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:02AM (#47245449)
      Either way it oort to be interesting.
    • Here on Earth we think of Oceans of water, but way out at Pluto's orbit it could be something esle (ammonia, methane, hydrogen, nitrogen...

      Given the makeup of the moon, they're looking for water. It's mostly water with some methane ices mixed in. Also, the article specifically mentions its a water ocean they're trying to prove existed.

  • quite a rapid flyby (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peter303 (12292) on Monday June 16, 2014 @08:45AM (#47245329)
    In order to get the probe there in the career lifetimes of the investigators and minimize decay of the power source and instruments, this probe has the fastest velocity of any probe so far. It took only eight hours to pass the Moon's orbit. That gives it about a three day window to make measurements before heading off into the Kuiper belt (and 2nd plutoid if they can find one soon).
    • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Monday June 16, 2014 @10:20AM (#47246189) Journal

      In order to get the probe there in the career lifetimes of the investigators and minimize decay of the power source and instruments, this probe has the fastest velocity of any probe so far. It took only eight hours to pass the Moon's orbit. That gives it about a three day window to make measurements before heading off into the Kuiper belt (and 2nd plutoid if they can find one soon).

      I don't fully understand that unit of velocity - can you frame it in Kessel runs per parsec?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Correction: this probe has the fastest launch velocity of any probe so far.
      The Helios probes had the fastest velocity of any probe so far (because it was falling towards the Sun), and Voyager 1 has the fastest velocity right now (because of velocity boosts from Jupiter and Saturn).
      More info. [wikipedia.org]

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        New Horizons did get a gravity boost by passing near Jupiter, but Saturn wasn't in the vicinity like it was during Voyager's time. One of the motivations for the Voyager missions was to take advantage of the coincidental alignment of the 4 gas giants at the time so that probe(s) could visit one after the other (without large expensive boosters).

        Voyager 1 didn't attempt Uranus and Neptune because it would mean sacrificing a close Titan pass. Thus, that was left to Voyager 2. Plus, there were concerns about S

  • What I don't get about this is what exactly their mission is. The article mentions that New Horizons is the first probe to reach Pluto and Charon and be able to take pictures, and I understand why that would be important. However, what it doesn't mention is this - do they think Charon has an underground ocean because they've seen the surface cracks already with other methods? Or do they not know that the cracks exist and simply think that it might be like Europa because it has a similar composition? It seem

    • by pjt33 (739471)

      Having RTFA (I'm sorry), they think that it's probable that way back when Charon's orbit around Pluto was elliptical enough to generate tidal forces which would have warmed its interior. They don't know whether the cracks exist, and if they don't find any then it puts an upper bound on the historical eccentricity of the orbit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The summary gives the impression that this is the probe's sole purpose and sole mission. In reality the probe will do a bunch of other things too. This story is about a particular group of people who are anxiously waiting for a picture of Charon.

  • by Jiro (131519)

    If the article was about something in New York, would we see a headline describing it as "York"?

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      By the time the probe gets to Pluto, it will be "Old Horizons". Hmmm, was there ever a New Yeller?

  • Definition of "Moon" Any planetary satellite. http://dictionary.reference.co... [reference.com]
  • Pluto's MOON CRACKS must be PROBED for mystery ocean

    It's like you don't think I'll UNDERSTAND unless you CAPITALISE the really important WORDS.

    Or maybe they just like to capitalise any word that has a vaguely smutty alternative meaning.

    -

    And to samzenpus:

    The aim of the mission is to search of evidence of an ancient underground ocean on the moon

    One usually searches for evidence.

    • by starless (60879)

      Or maybe they just like to capitalise any word that has a vaguely smutty alternative meaning.

      That's what they do.

      (I find it rather annoying, but less annoying than their global warming denial articles.)

  • KSP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday June 16, 2014 @09:50AM (#47245875)

    Orbit each planet.
    Land a probe on each planet.
    Land a probe on each moon.
    Bring back samples from each location.
    Colonize.

    Until we do all those, we are cavemen with delusions of grandeur.

    • by goltzc (1284524)

      Orbit each planet. Land a probe on each planet. Land a probe on each moon. Bring back samples from each location. Colonize.

      Until we do all those, we are cavemen with delusions of grandeur.

      At least we have really nice caves these days.

  • Why isn't it probing Uranus?

  • I thought Pluto was destroyed by Neil deGrasse Glactus.

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