Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Pluto and Ceres the cool planets

The Ancient Death Star? Bright Lights on Ceres has excited scientists, astronomers and ordinary people who have been following space probe Dawn's arrival and study of the dwarf planet in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

Beyond the chaos of Earth, this year has been great for two other peaceful small planets in deep space. Ceres, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter has been getting an up close and personal visit from the space probe Dawn. Dawn was originally launched 8 years ago by NASA's New Horizon program and its ongoing unmanned space exploration of new planets both near and far outside our solar system. There's been many spectacular shots taken by he Hubble Telescope throughout the world that has ignited NASA, the BRICS and the world's interest in exploring new, alien planets.

NASA Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

Ceres is just the latest planet in a long list of the big nine actually eight planets of the solar system to be visited by humans via a space probe. Ceres was first spotted by telescope in 1801 by Italian priest and astronomer Guiseppe Piazzi. Ceres was already old and had existed long before the 19th century. Ceres was granted planet status and for a time was counted as the five planet of the sun. Despite the joys of being "discovered" by Piazzi, Ceres was soon downgraded to an asteroid. For nearly 130 years, Ceres remind a forgotten asteroid until 2006. In that year the ninth planet from the sun, Pluto was also downgraded to a dwarf planet. As insulting as it would be Pluto if the small planet could speak for itself, The more famous planet's status downgrade didn't go over well with millions of humans. Many had grown up with Pluto as the 9th planet and wouldn't stand for the political correct dwarf planet title. What's even more interesting is the fact that Pluto has remained a mystery for most earthlings. It was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 an American astronomer who was searching for the legendary Planet X or what was considered the unknown planets beyond Neptune. Tombaugh's ashes are traveling on board the LORRI space probe in homage to him. On July 15, LORRI will zip pass Pluto taking brilliant pictures of the tiny planet up close for the world to see for the first time.

Sneak Peek of Pluto: Here is what the Space Probe Lorri has captured of Pluto as it rendezvous briefly with the dwarf planet on July 14th or 15th. 

Unfortunately, the probe won't be able to orbit around planet for any long term study. It will be speeding too fast and clocking a lot of mileage for the next destination to one of the small icy planets outside Pluto. Pluto is in a part of the region of space known as the Kuiper Belt region named after Gerard Kuiper who studied and spotted the region. The Oort Cloud borders it and is named after Jan Oort. The Kuiper Belt region is one of the darkest and further regions away from the sun. It is the origins of the asteroids, comets and where most of the current planets owes its creation. In short, the Kuiper Belt is the Genesis of the solar system and in the beginning it may have aided in giving birth to the molecular cloud that created our solar system. That's why Pluto and its largest moon Charon, its 4 known moons Kerberos, Styx, Nix and Hydra are all important. They have been surviving way out on the edge beyond Ceres' neighborhood and Earth's vantage point.

Pale Blue Dot: Perhaps the most famous image of space second to the Pillars of Creation by the Hubble Telescope. Photographed by Voyager I in 1990, Earth can be seen in the shadow of Saturn's rings some 3.7 billions of miles away from Voyager. 

Renowned scientist Carl Sagan paid homage to this image and humanity's place in the larger universe in his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The Pale Blue Dot is part of Voyager 1's Family Portraits of planets. Sagan was also part of the Voyager mission team. A Golden Record with the sounds and images of Earth was attached to Voyager I in hopes that an advanced civilization would come across Voyager in the near or distant future.

Journey to the Edge of the Universe National Geographic 

Real life Interstellar travel

The space probe Voyager 1 (launched in 1977) who took the pale blue dot photo, dodged Pluto since it was too tiny to see  much in the same way Ceres' size has been a bust for it at certain points in universal (space wise) history. Voyager 1 was the first space probe to leave the solar system and reach interstellar space and is still in operation at 37 years. Eventually its generators will expire and the probe will no longer communicate directly with. However it will continue to travel through space for years through silence and vast cosmos. Until than, Voyager will remind in contact with Earth through NASA's Deep Space Network. Voyager 1 had reached the heliosphere by 2007, the sun's encompassing region around the solar system and heliopause to break into interstellar region in 2013. Earth still communicates with Voyager via radio signals. As for the probes that went before Pioneer 10 and 11, they are somewhere in the Oort Cloud heading towards Taurus constellation.

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