For the first time in 85 years, scientists will succeed in catching Pluto into telescope lenses for more than a moment. Things will change on Tuesday, when NASA's New Horizons will make a quick flight to the largest and most unexplored planet in the solar system.
Hints that New Horizons will be able to find will be visible even when the probe approaches the Pluto region at a distance of more than 3 billion miles from Earth.
Dark areas, stained on the surface of Pluto may indicate the places where hydrocarbon deposits under the influence of solar ultraviolet radiation have changed their structure. According to another theory, dark spots are peculiar dips where rocks make their way through Pluto’s ice crust.
“We still don’t know for sure what we’ll find,” says Alan Stern, chief researcher at New Horizons. “We have already sent space stations many times for familiarization missions, and almost everywhere we were confronted with the fact that our initial knowledge about objects was flat and often incorrect.” Like other missions previously sent to Pluto in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, New Horizons will have clear scientific objectives. They can be formulated in three questions;
- What does Pluto and its orbital counterpart Charon look like?
- What is their composition?
- What does Pluto's atmosphere look like?
Answers to these questions will help flesh out human research on how the solar system is formed. For example, Pluto, as well as thousands of micro-planets in the Kuiper Belt region, could have been collected much closer to the Sun, but were pushed beyond Neptune, since Jupiter and the gas giants had entered their orbits.
New Horizons can find ice volcanoes on the surface of Pluto, similar to those that the Cassini spacecraft discovered on Enceladus, the sixth satellite of Saturn. This may indicate subsurface accumulations of water.
Of course, this assumption looks somewhat contradictory when it comes to a planet with a surface temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Pluto, which scientists believe, 70 percent of the rocks, can be heated from the inside due to the natural decay of radioactive substances. This peculiar eccentric in a large planetary family, rotates in its 248-year-old orbit like a king, accompanied by a retinue: Charon, a large satellite that is half the diameter of Pluto, and four smaller satellites, Nikta, Hydra, Kerberus and Stix. During his thirty-minute stay in the atmosphere of Pluto, according to the idea of scientists, New Horizons will reach each of them.
At the closest distance from Pluto, the spacecraft will be at 7.49 on Tuesday, and in about 4.5 hours the signals given by the ship will reach Earth. Scientific research and photographic materials will be transferred not earlier than in 16 months, and at this time New Horizons will continue their journey in the district, in order to make another research mission if possible.