Posted February 18, 2020 16:07:54The new planetary maps created by the Pluto-sized dwarf planet Dione have captured a picture of our universe that has captivated the imagination of a generation.
The planet, which orbits at an altitude of 4.8 billion kilometers (2.8 million miles) from Earth, is one of the largest objects in the Solar and Heliospheric Systems and orbits at a distance of more than a billion kilometers from its parent star.
The images, which were created by scientists using data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, were unveiled on Wednesday by the Planetary Society, a nonprofit space advocacy organization.
The dwarf planet is so massive that it is the third-largest object in the system behind the planets Jupiter and Saturn.
It has a diameter of about 2.2 million kilometers (1.5 million miles), and it’s a distance from its star that is more than six times farther than the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
The Pluto-Dione images were created using data gathered by the New Horizons probe, which was launched in January of 2020 and entered the orbit of the dwarf planets Dione and Hydra in July of 2020.
The spacecraft traveled more than seven times farther from its home planet than the Earth to reach its closest approach to Pluto, the largest object in our solar system.
The new maps were made possible by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) cameras on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which is used to survey the inner reaches of the solar and interstellar solar system for planets and their moons.
The images show a massive asteroid belt, a vast galaxy cluster, and a bright star cluster in the constellation Lyra.
These two images from the dwarf Planet Dione, taken by the Hubble Space Camera, were created on February 18.NASA says the new planetary data reveals the presence of a rocky core and an icy core of the asteroid-sized planet.
Dione’s icy core, the dwarf said in a statement, is similar to that of our own Earth.
In fact, Dione is a little bit like the Moon, the astronomers say.
The researchers also found that Dione’s rocky core contained some of the heaviest metals ever detected in the outer solar system, and that the presence and evolution of these metals in the dwarf world was similar to what is seen in Earth’s mantle.
“While we do not yet know exactly what is happening inside Dione — we know it has a very small atmosphere and is a bit smaller than the Moon — we do know it is rocky, and we have also found its rocky core to contain some of Earth’s heaviest elements,” said co-author John Grotzinger, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
“We are not sure how the rocky core formed, but it is possible that a very heavy asteroid fell into it, and it is likely that the rocky shell formed from this collision.”
The team also noted that the dwarf is one hundred times closer to its parent than the Sun and that Dio’s moon, Deneb, orbits the dwarf at an average distance of just about 10 million kilometers from it.NASA plans to release the images online next month.
The agency is also offering a reward of up to $50,000 for any person who can help identify a location on Earth that has been mapped using the new maps.
“The discovery of Pluto is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for astronomy and science, and the discovery of Dione offers a stunning new look at the inner workings of the Solar system and the solar wind,” said Rob Belsky, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“Dione and Dione are exciting discoveries for planetary science and the study of the cosmos, and I’m grateful to NASA for working so hard to find them.”
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