NASA is getting closer to Pluto. The first major piece of evidence that came through, that showed scientists just how close they were getting to a first for space travel. NASA’s New Horizons Probe has been drawing closer and closer to Pluto, getting more impressive imagery by the day. First, it was a faint image of the dwarf planet. Now, the moons that surround the tiny planet have made it to film, and that is the first time that such a thing has been captured. This is a major moment for space aviation, and the study of Pluto. Moreover, it is key that New Horizons continues to capture images like this, to fully understand the scope of what scientists are trying to learn about with this mission.
One of the unique things that scientists are now looking for, as New Horizons draws even closer to the planet – and eventually makes its closest pass in July – are either rings or new moons that were previously unknown. The moons that were found are all moons that scientists have known exist whereas now, given the improved visibility and location – scientists can begin looking at what else is present that might not have been seen before. That being said, John Spencer, a member of the team pointed out that, “If the spacecraft observes any additional moons as we get closer to Pluto, they will be worlds that no one has seen before.”
The five moons that scientists know about with Pluto include, Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx. Looking deeper into these moons will give scientists a better understanding about Pluto as a whole. If this continues, and New Horizons is able to discover new moons or rings, it would put the mission in a very exciting place.
It would give new perspective to scientists and the information that the team will be able to gather as New Horizons makes its closest approach will prove to be amongst the most interesting information that has ever been gathered and the closest encounter with the planet by humans, ever. The significance is immeasurable and given the debate around Pluto, and how just in the last few years, scientists have battled about Pluto’s definition is profound.
When this mission closes, scientists will finally have concrete answers and deep analysis of something that has been fiercely debated over the course of the last several years, even decades. It’s unclear though how this will impact NASA’s future work with Pluto though, should the planet be deemed “unfit” to be considered a planet. Whether that will have a negative impact, or it will simply create more curiosity around the planet – remains to be seen.