July 10th, 2015

We’re excited by the Pluto Flyby!

On July 14th, the New Horizons spacecraft is due to pass Pluto, the mysterious ball of rock and ice that has been the cause of much debate since it was ‘demoted’ from its status as a planet in 2006.

Young explorers in the form of children’s book characters, Stella and Steve, are excited about the historic event. In their book, ‘Stella and Steve Travel Through Space!’ they wonder if Pluto is a viable place to live. “We’ve never really been close enough to Pluto to see what is there,” pet pug Steve said at the time. Lets see what they have to say now…

Stella_cold

Stella: What are we hoping to find out from the flyby, Steve?

Steve: Well, the dwarf planet is more than 4.5 billion miles away from earth, so it will be amazing to see it close up for the first time. We will be able to see more of Pluto’s moons, which we now know to number at least 5. Scientists are hoping that it will help us understand more about the origins of planets in our solar system and learn more about what is in the outer reaches of space. What’s amazing though is that the probe will be flying by at 31,000 miles per hour – that’s over 50 times the speed of a jumbo jet – so it only has a few minutes to take its pictures and gather data before it goes past it. It’s taken nine years to get there!

Stella: Does this mean we finally get to see what exactly Pluto looks like?

Steve: Yes! As long as all goes to plan, we will get detailed photos of the surface of Pluto, which is something that is really exciting and new.

Stella: Why has it been so difficult to know much about Pluto?

Steve: It’s so far away, that it’s very difficult for us to see much detail through optical telescopes. So getting close gives us a great opportunity to get to know more.

Stella: How important do you think this will be for science?

Steve: This is a new frontier – this is the edge of the solar system, a place that we have never seen before. If it inspires people to go and learn and find things out that are mysterious and new, then it will be very important.

Stella: Pluto was one of my favourites when we talked about it in our book. We imagined you might be able to make ice sculptures if we lived there! Do you think we could?

Steve: We’ll see soon!

Steve_icesculpture

Stella: I guess living on Pluto wouldn’t ever be possible then, no matter what we discover about it. Is there anywhere we could live if something was to happen to Earth?

Steve: At the moment, no. We need to take care of this planet, because even the next best contender, Mars, is a very hostile place.

Stella: Thanks Steve! I can always rely on you to tell me about space. Be sure to let me know what we find on the 14th!

Steve: I certainly will!

Stella and Steve Travel Through Space! is out now, written by James Duffett-Smith and illustrated by Bethany Straker, published by Sky Pony Press.

 

 

 

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by Bethany Straker
by James Duffett-Smith

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