Dr. James Tuttle Keane discusses why Pluto probably has a huge underground ocean. To make this discovery, he used images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft, computer simulations, and good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Don't miss Dr. Keane's planetary illustrations on his twitter feed.
Sagan Prize winner Dr. Henry Throop tells us how scientists look for micron-sized dust that’s millions of miles away to protect the New Horizons spacecraft. This search involves computer modeling, occultation observations, and plenty of teamwork.
Henry Throop at the 2.12-meter telescope at San Pedro Martir, Mexico / Photo: Eduardo de la Fuente
Dr. Emily Kramer stops by the show to try some tea and talk about her trip to South Africa to observe the next New Horizons target, 2014 MU69. She was one of several astronomers and planetary scientists who flew to other countries to watch this object pass in front of a star in the hopes of measuring its diameter.
Longtime listeners know I cannot get enough of New Horizons, the spacecraft that zipped by Pluto and Charon in 2015 and is now headed towards another distant object. Dr. Kimberly Ennico Smith, New Horizons deputy project scientist, stops by the show to talk about the new data currently being transmitted to Earth, what it’s like to work on this mission, and the violent past of Pluto’s moon Charon.
Pluto, as seen by New Horizons. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Dr. Alejandro Soto visits the show to talk about the different atmospheres found on planets and moons in our solar system. We talk about wind on Mars, the opening scene of The Martian, Pluto’s thin atmosphere, and what it is like on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Dr. Kelsi Singer and I drink an unusual beverage while she shares some of the incredible discoveries that she and the New Horizons team are making. We also discuss a contentious issue— should Pluto be called a planet?
The New Horizons mission revealed Pluto's jaw-dropping vistas and geophysical mysteries. One listener wanted to know why the spacecraft didn't go into orbit around Pluto. Tom Spilker, interplanetary travel expert, tells us the answer.
Tom made some slides to accompany this podcast! You can download them here: