Home: Not Where the Heart Is
Pluto has a big heart and now we’ve captured it. The New Horizons team has named the distinctive heart-shaped feature splayed across the newly clarified surface of the dwarf planet the
Right now, as surprising and enlightening data continues to stream back to Earth from the New Horizon space probe, we heart Pluto and apparently Pluto hearts us. In fact, it’s a full-blown love affair, but it will not last, because there’s no future that we Earthlings can envision being a part of.
Understanding Pluto in all its new-found complexity is all about deciphering its past: how old – or young – are the ice mountains, why aren’t there any impact craters, and how did tiny Pluto end up orbiting the sun just beyond our gas giants?
We will continue to ask and hopefully answer questions like these, but eventually our delight with everything Pluto will diminish, as has our interest in every other object in our solar system where we’ve sent remote explorers – except one.
Mars was a world thoroughly imagined as a place where life – i.e. the Martians – flourished long before NASA’s first Mars probe, Mariner 4, flew past exactly 50 years to the day before New Horizons flew past Pluto. Prior to that Mars, like Pluto, was a vague, fuzzy disk that could only be explored via Earth-bound telescopes.
When photos from Mariner 4 and subsequent Mars probes revealed the varied typography on Mars, including evidence of past water flow, we leapt from imagining Martians as an alien species to imagining ourselves as the future Martians. NASA began planning human missions to Mars, intended to follow fast on the heels of the Apollo moon missions (subsequently derailed by budget cuts).
Now scientists have seen water on Pluto also —> Read More