The Daily Dose: The dynamic nature of Pluto’s dark side continues to astound astronomers

Any illusion that science, society, and religion exist in different spheres continues to take a beating at the hands of SARS-CoV-2. The image of a handful of socially distanced pilgrims in Mecca tells you everything you need to know. Now, with the end of the Hajj coming, another blow was struck by the coronavirus. Per the Associated Press, “The last days of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia coincide with the four-day Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice,’ in which Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to the poor… The pandemic has pushed millions of people around the world closer to the brink of poverty, making it harder for many to fulfill the religious tradition of purchasing livestock.” We wonder how much pain it would take to make a COVID-19 vaccine appealing to everyone?

NASA joined the parade to Mars yesterday. They launched their most ambitious rover, Perseverance, as well as the first Martian drone. The take-off went without a hitch. So far so good, it seems. According to NASA, “The team controlling NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has received telemetry (detailed spacecraft data) down from the spacecraft and has also been able to send commands up to the spacecraft, according to Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy project manager. The team, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, has confirmed that the spacecraft is healthy and on its way to Mars.” China and the United Arab Emirates launched their own missions to Mars during the past couple of weeks.

Forget about the Darkside of the Moon. It’s all about Pluto now. The more researchers dig into the data collected during satellite fly-by’s, the more they learn that the dwarf planet is much more dynamic than believed in the past. In particular, the presence of vast amounts of water is one example. “The idea of a subsurface ocean has existed for some time, but the far-side images have helped to bolster this idea. Some of the strongest evidence comes from a feature known as chaotic terrain — a muddled mess of ridges, cracks and plains on the exact opposite side of Pluto from Sputnik Planitia (see ‘Coming into focus’).” Maybe Pluto will become a stopover planet during future manned intergalactic travel?

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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