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First science from New Horizons of Pluto

The first official scientific publication from the data New Horizons has sent back to us got published last week and it's open access, available here. In my opinion, it's fairly accessible to the layman or one who's familiar with the basics of geology and basic science.

Broadly speaking, the paper talks about their observations of Pluto and it's three moons Charon, Hydra and Nix. Towards the end of the paper, they also talk about upper limits on size of possibly undiscovered moons and the the properties of a ring system, if any is present while still undetected. Going into the details, they talk about the changes in albedo (reflectivity of a surface) on Pluto's and Charon's surfaces and what the reasons might be. There are also numerous surface features, from ridges to valleys, from craters to mountains, from glaciers to possible sublimation pits. The paper discusses these diverse geological features and their possible origins. The paper also talks about the atmosphere of Pluto and observations made during the solar occultation. They studied the composition of the atmosphere and give an account of the various species and their abundance found in the atmosphere.

It is important to note that data is still being downloaded from the New Horizons spacecraft (~50 GB of observations) and more precise observations are yet to be received. It will take a while for us to get a holistic picture of Pluto and it's moons but one thing to be sure of is that there are exciting times ahead.

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