News Reality

The Pluto Flyby Is Nearing Its End, But We Can Still Visit In VR

by www.huffingtonpost.com

I started tracking around the Sputnik Planum on the left chamber of Pluto’s icy heart. I picked up a rock bigger than myself and threw it to watch it float away in the slow motion that comes with low gravity. I went up icy mountains, and looked around — there were miles of rugged cratered terrain, bearing witness to the dwarf planet’s old history of meteor showers. Then I went back to my virtual spaceship, hovering under a starry sky and a dim blob of a sun, to transport myself to Krun Macula, the dark regions named after a mythical lord of the underworld.

It can be both exhilarating and dizzying to walk up and down Pluto’s cliffs in the immersive world of virtual reality, especially for the uninitiated like me. But I was mostly amazed to find myself in a virtual world composed entirely of images and data acquired and sent to Earth by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft only a year ago.

My virtual visit to Pluto took place at an event held by CuriosityStream, a young company that provides subscription-based streaming of documentary film. The VR experience is an appendix to an 11-episode series called “Destination: Pluto,” said Jorge Franzini, a producer of the series. 

Planetary scientist Alan Stern, the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, also got a chance to put on goggles and walk around.

“I was very impressed. I want them to VR the rest of the planet. The samples they did were fabulous,” he said. 

It all started with a postal stamp in 1991, which read “Pluto Not Yet Explored.” That’s how Stern likes to begin telling the story of the Pluto mission and how scientists were motivated to better understand the dwarf planet’s unique status in our solar system.

Pluto, first discovered in 1930, is so far away that hardly any reliable data about it could make it to Earth. But in July 2015, on its 9-year, 3-billion-mile journey, New Horizons flew past Pluto. The spacecraft’s high-resolution photos revealed its surprisingly complex geology: glaciers of nitrogen ice, avalanches, old traces of once-flowing rivers, volcanoes and mountain peaks some 11,000 feet tall. (The “Pluto Not Yet Explored” stamp also traveled with the spacecraft as an onboard memento, setting a Guinness World Record for the farthest distance traveled by a stamp.)

New Horizons has continued phoning home data from the flyby, which ends this month. It will then continue its journey in the Kuiper Belt ? the part of the solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit ? to reach another object some 1 billion miles beyond Pluto by 2019.

About 95 percent of New Horizons data is already home, and scientists have learned about some major features in the icy world. “We were very surprised to find out that Pluto is still geologically alive,” Stern said. “It has upended our ideas of how planetary geophysics works.”

Pluto is so small and so far from the sun that most scientists expected it to freeze beyond any chance of creating new geology today.

“Obviously that naive idea is incorrect. And Pluto proved that once and for all,” Stern said. “Now we’re back at the drawing board, trying to figure out how small planets work.”

We were very surprised to find out that Pluto is still geologically alive. It has upended our ideas of how planetary geophysics works. Planetary scientist Alan Stern

Pluto’s complexity was another surprise. Most planetary bodies in the solar system have a few major feature types. Take the moon or Mercury. They’re virtually all craters, with some mountain ranges created by cratering. Some less-typical planetary objects have five or six features. Pluto has a dozen more.

“It’s just the whole package. For being so small, it’s the most complex small planet that we’ve ever seen. It’s as complex as larger planets like Mars or the Earth,” Stern said.

Pluto has also uniquely engaged people. The mission’s webpage received over 2 billion views in one day. The news of the flyby was on the front page of hundreds of newspapers. Space people or scientists weren’t the only ones interested in the Pluto mission, Stern says. It became part of the social fabric and, of course, an internet phenomenon.

Now with 9000x more heart breaking.

That massive social engagement, Stern says, illustrates the mission’s inspirational power. He’s received letters and has had conversations with people after his talks and in the airport who share their fascination or tell him their kids now want to go into science and engineering. 

“Hopefully, this will inspire people to do even bigger things. Because there are so many big challenges to rid the world of poverty and pollution, and to do that, it’s going to happen through technology. We need to inspire more people to go into tech careers to solve problems like these, and space exploration is one way to do that.”

Now that New Horizons is off to exploring other Kuiper Belt objects, Stern is expecting many more surprises. 

“You could not have predicted the amazing discoveries at Pluto, even though we have been to a couple of objects in the solar system that were at least a little analogous to Pluto,” Stern said. “We’ve never been to anything like where we are going next, either. I don’t make predictions, except to say to expect to see something wonderful.”

I asked Stern what really went through his mind when he first saw there was a heart shape on Pluto. “I was in a room where the data was being displayed, hot off the press, and one of our media people said it’s heart-shaped. And I thought, ‘Oh that’s silly,’” he recalled.

“But then I looked up and saw that it really did look like a heart. We knew that would make Pluto a lot more approachable to the public. I mean, who can’t like a heart?” Stern continued. “Like many aspects of this mission, the public participation was phenomenal ? and I always say, ‘Pluto did its part.’”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


Read Full Article On www.huffingtonpost.com
Latest
During a recent session at its Ignite conference in Australia, Microsoft revealed a rough timeline for the second Windows 10 update.
Apple’s iPhone 8 smartphone is expected to be a far cry from its predecessor – the iPhone 7. While we are still far from the device launch, leaks about the device have begun taking a definite shape.
PC maker HP today launched its ’Omen’ range of notebooks and a desktop to tap the growing community of gaming enthusiasts in the country.Priced between Rs 79,990 and Rs 1.40,000 lakh, HP’s range will
President Donald Trump is taking recurring retreats to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, an elite resort that has quickly been dubbed the winter White House and the “Southern White House” b
Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled Skype Lite, a lighter version of Skype, specifically made for India and connecting it to Aadhaar to work in low bandwidth and devices that have limited storage space..
Replaces the existing Dynamic Cloud Server branding and implements some clever tech.
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has received a resignation letter from her husband, Michael Guadagno, a former appeals court judge, reports said Tuesday. The letter was written on Jan. 26 this year.
Kate Middleton has been making headlines since she and then-fiancé Prince William announced their engagement in November 2010. Aside from news of them tying the knot, the Duchess of Cambridge’s 12-ca
They're not addressing key pain points.
A statue of Jesus Christ was beheaded for the second time in two weeks near the front doors of a church in Indianapolis, Indiana, over the weekend. The Rev. Brad Flaskamp of the Cottage Avenue Pentec
Twenty two individual Tudor shoes made of thick cattle leather were found in Farringdon in central London by archaeologists working on the Crossrail project.
App requires a biometric device to be linked to merchant's mobile phone for payment authentication
Ratings agency S&P expects IT services major TCS to remain net cash positive even if its Rs 16,000-crore buyback offer gets fully subscribed. Ratings and outlook on Tata Consultancy Services a...
Qualcomm introduced a number of new products prior to of next week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. Qualcomm announced that it is now able to provide a complete radio frequency fron
Things aren’t looking good for Officer Adam Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) in NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” In Season 4, episode 15, he will return to the Intelligence Unit after completing his undercover gig,
The city of Haikou in Hainan Province continued to have the cleanest air out of the nation's 74 major cities, while Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province was the worst polluted.
Verizon announced plans in July of last year to acquire Yahoo for $4.83 billion, saying that Yahoo would be integrated with AOL.
Lindsay Lohan is part of Odda magazine’s 5th anniversary edition. The “Mean Girls” actress is even one of the faces to grace the seven different covers of Odda 12. Since this is such a special feat f
The company’s proposed changes have already taken hold in the small-satellite world and shaken up that segment of the industry.
Verizon Wireless may soon release its Moto G5 Plus. The smartphone is expected to be showcased at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona on Feb. 26.
“Big Bang Theory” Season 10 star Kaley Cuoco and her boyfriend Karl Cook may have been dating for over a year now, but the couple is still in their honeymoon phase.
NASA’s ambitious mission to fly by Jupiter’s moon Europa — perhaps the most promising place to look for life beyond Earth in our solar system — has taken another step closer to reality. The space age
eToilets are unmanned toilets which work on an indigenous technology and are placed on a cement or metal base. 
The European Union said it is ready to accommodate more Indian IT professionals and denounced any form of protectionism in global trade, amid anxiety in India over the Trump administration’s possible
Kuo says the advanced camera system could be used in new innovative games that can accurately replace a character’s head with that of the user.
A finalist in last month's Miss Kentucky USA beauty pageant, Christen Marie McAllister, was charged with one count of arson after she was accused of setting her roommate's bed on fire in the presence
In a tweet from June last year, when Donald Trump was still campaigning, he said: “Hillary Clinton's open borders immigration policies will drive down wages for all Americans - and make everyone less
NASA has a vast repository of knowledge and experience in its Lessons Learned dataset consisting of over 10 million records. By applying an open-source graph-based management system it was able to vas
"Flip or Flop" star Christina El Moussa and her boyfriend Gary Anderson have ended their romance, reports said Tuesday. The news surfaced the same day the mother of two appeared on ABC's "Good Mornin
Ramco Systems today said it has bagged a $2.5-million cloud deal from Allegis Group Australia Pty Ltd. “The company has secured a multi-million dollar cloud deal (about $2.5 million) from Allegis ...
Ariana Grande just teased new music to come from her and rapper Bia (real name Bianca Landrau). The two artists just performed their first collaboration song, titled “Esta Noche,” during Grande’s Buf
The launch of the Russian Progress 66 is scheduled for 12:58 a.m. Wednesday (11:58 a.m. Baikonur time).
Mobile VR moves the most units, but PSVR brings home the bacon in the Aussie VR showdown
Prince Harry explains what he thinks the best teachers can do for pupils.

Recent News

Turkish Cypriot side not to take part in leaders meeting on Cyprus -media

ANKARA (Reuters) - The Turkish Cypriot side will not take part in Thursday's leaders meeting on ending the island's decades-long division, broadcaster NTV and other media said on Wednesday, after face
Read Full Article

In Bavarian town, Syrian sisters get to grips with Germany's freedoms

SCHILLINGSFUERST, Germany (Reuters) - More than a year ago, Mayar and Nawar Ballish escaped car bomb attacks in Damascus. Now the Syrian sisters, both students in their twenties, go to school by train
Read Full Article

Turkey sees change in U.S. stance toward operation in Syria's Raqqa: defense minister

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's defense minister said on Wednesday there had been a slight change in the stance of the United States toward an operation on Syria's Raqqa and the role of a Syrian Kurdish m
Read Full Article

Malaysia names North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning in murder case

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian police on Wednesday named a North Korean diplomat along with a state airline official who are wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged h
Read Full Article

Russia's new social class: Servants of God

The number of churches, priests and seminaries in Russia is growing rapidly. According to VCIOM, about 20,000 Orthodox churches opened in the past 15 years. In the Moscow Diocese alone, the number of
Read Full Article

Russian top court rules to release opposition activist Ildar Dadin

Russia’s Supreme Court has repealed a guilty verdict passed on opposition activist Ildar Dadin for violating the rules of public gatherings, a TASS correspondent reports from the courtroom. "The Pres
Read Full Article

Cunene: Interior Ministry staffs appealed to strengthen efforts

Ondjiva - The secretary of State of the Interior Ministry for Technical Provision, Hermenegildo Félix, last Tuesday in Ondjiva City, southern Cunene Province, appealed to the staffs of this governmen
Read Full Article

IFAL wants to train over 50.000 administrative staff

Luanda - At least 50.776 administrative staff will be trained in the current school year by the Local and Administration Training Institute (IFAL). , This was said to Angop on Monday in Luanda by th
Read Full Article

Budapest Olympic bid on last legs as mayor to seek government guidance

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Budapest's mayor is expected to seek government guidance on the future of its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, according to a council resolution widely seen as paving the way
Read Full Article

Popular Finance

Brent Crude opens high Wednesday in London

Luanda - The price of Brent Crude, a benchmark for Angolan exports kept in stock for delivery in April, opened high this Wednesday in the London market, with gains of 0.40 per cent, with the barrel be
Read Full Article
 

Wait six weeks to avoid any hefty pension exit fees

Providers typically charge savers 5 per cent of their pot if they withdraw money before their deal matures. But the Government is capping exit penalties at 1 per cent from March 31.
Read Full Article
 

Beware of fake iPads on Amazon

The crooks add fake items at rock bottom prices to lure people - often with an email address in the adverts. Customers are told to transfer payment for the goods to a bank account.
Read Full Article
 

Fraudsters hack email accounts of home movers for cash

The crooks are targeting property owners and tenants who are owed money from the proceeds of a house sale or a returned deposit.
Read Full Article
 

Beware long fixed savings deals as rates climb

Last week came the grim news inflation is running at 1.8 per cent a year, six times faster than 0.3 per cent this time last year. And in that time, savings rates have fallen.
Read Full Article

From the archives: Air-raid sirens installed in Los Angeles

In January 1942, Los Angeles rushed to install air-raid sirens around the city. Many were placed atop traffic signals.  A story in the Jan. 17, 1942, Los Angeles Times reported: Any resident of Lo
Read Full Article

Petroleum minister: Iran to export oil to Russia soon

Tehran, Feb 22, IRNA - Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said here late Tuesday that Tehran would ink a deal with Moscow within the next two weeks to export 100,000 barrels per day of crude oil to
Read Full Article
 

Neighbours can up cost of getting extension by thousands

When you carry out building work on a wall that you share with a neighbour — known as a party wall — you have to inform them of your plans.
Read Full Article
 

Difference between onshore and offshore funds explained

Holly Black, of Money Mail replies: First off, it might be worth checking whether there is an onshore version of the fund you are considering investing in.
Read Full Article