Writer: Brenda Zelaya
The New Horizon spacecraft, which is exploring Pluto and its surroundings, keeps showing the most valuable characteristics of this dwarf planet and conveying new information never seen or heard before. At Florida State College at Jacksonville and at the Museum of Science and History, faculty members of both locations express their knowledge about the major exploration at Pluto and its possible outcomes for the future.
“Consider a machine that traveled over 3 billion miles in over 9 years; I wish my cars would work that well! New Horizons has been a highly-successful mission, and I hope we can fly by one of the other icy bodies beyond Pluto,” said Michael Reynolds, Astronomy and Physics professor at FSCJ.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, after traveling for more than 9 ½ years and 3 million miles, the spacecraft made the Johns Hopkins University aware by signalizing its passing to Pluto on July 14 and creating an environment of excitement and patriotism. As the days have gone by, the spacecraft has been sending clear images of Pluto that are evidence for new studies. The spacecraft, which has the size of a piano will continue to explore Pluto, its five moons, and newer objects located around the Kuiper Belt.
Edmund Whisler, Director of Planetarium and School Programs at MOSH, believes this exploration is successful and will make scientists stay active regarding the new evidence Pluto is showing. He believes Earth is the most important planet, since the only way humanity is able to analyze other planets is by having the tools the blue planet offers. Whisler hopes this exploration can serve to explain more about the mountain range formation on Pluto, formation of Charon chasms, and know more about the distinct resources at Pluto’s surface.
“The biggest surprise for me is probably aligned with what many scientists were surprised by, the lack of craters on Pluto’s surface. It is a bit of a mystery as to what processes could be acting on Pluto to renew its surface. Pluto has certainly been impacted by countless blasts but something is wiping them away”, said Mr. Whisler.
At the same time, Professor Reynolds believes the New Horizon spacecraft is doing a job many doubt. The fact that it is flying all the way to Pluto without any inconvenience is highly favorable and rewarding to today’s science. Pluto being a hot topic at the moment, he believes waiting for the information from the New Horizon could have been a better way to know if it is a planet or not. As a universe passionate, he categorizes Pluto as an ice world with new characteristics of many possible mountain ranges that need to be researched more deeply. With his experience in astronomy, he surely admires Earth and enjoys seeing Mars with the use of his telescope.
Another FSCJ professor who is impressed with the New Horizon and its possibilities of showing essential data that puts Pluto back to the debate regarding its planetary position is Ivetta Abramyan. This Earth Space Science and Oceanography professor finds Pluto as one of her favorite worlds and now with the recent exploration, it has become clearer that Pluto’s atmosphere is escaping, there is more terrain, and it is considered relatively young from the deficiency of craters. She can’t wait to see the future details of this investigation and hopes NASA can focus on the other planets which also carry many mysteries.
“New Horizons revolutionized our knowledge of Pluto. My curiosity regarding Pluto has definitely grown after the discoveries from the New Horizons mission”, said Professor Abramyan.
Many of the opinions of knowledgeable members at FSCJ and MOSH are enthusiastic to know the efficient job the spacecraft is making on Pluto. The expected desires of this exploration include fewer questions and more answers, which would result a support to our development in science and lead to new findings on the solar system.