New Horizons spots Pluto and Charon


NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, using its highest-resolution telescopic  camera, has spotted Pluto’s Texas-sized, ice-covered moon Charon for the first  time. This represents a major milestone on the spacecraft’s 9½-year journey to conduct the initial reconnaissance of the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt and,  in a sense, begins the mission’s long-range study of the Pluto system.

The largest of Pluto’s five known moons, Charon orbits about 12,000 miles (more than 19,000 kilometers) away from Pluto itself. As seen from New Horizons,  that’s only about 0.01 degrees away.

When these images were taken on  July 1 and July 3, 2013, the New Horizons spacecraft was still about 550  million miles (880 million kilometers) from Pluto. On July 14, 2015, the spacecraft is scheduled to pass just 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers) above  Pluto’s surface.


 Artists' conception of New Horizons passing by Pluto and Charon in July 2015.

Artists' conception of New Horizons passing by Pluto and Charon in July 2015.

Plans for a new planetarium in Mississauga

The mandate of the Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization (EASSO) is to fund, build and run a new planetarium in Mississauga.  It has been nearly 18 years since the closure of the McLaughlin Planetarium in downtown Toronto.  There are local planetaria - there is a small planetarium at the Ontario Science Centre and at museums in London and Kitchener-Waterloo.  But the GTA lacks a dedicated facility which serves to offer visitors a real opportunity to explore the universe within the city. 

Across the country, the planetaria in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton WInnipeg and Montreal have all been upgraded in the last few years.  Toronto and its surroundings is the largest metropolitan area in the world to not support a large astronomy facility.   

In the short term we are considering purchasing a smaller portable planetarium. To gauge community support we ask that if you agree with this plan and want to see a planetarium in Mississauga, you visit our web site and sign up on our Get Involved page. 

We invite you to share with us your ideas and thoughts about the possibility of a new facility in our city.  We are also looking for volunteers with skills that can help us to reach our goal. 

Meanwhile Earthshine is planning a lot of astronomy activities in Mississauga in collaboration with its partner the RASC.  We hope you can join us.




Names for New Pluto Moons Accepted by the IAU After Public Vote


IAU Press Release

The IAU is pleased to announce that today it has officially recognised the names Kerberos and Styx for the fourth and fifth moons of Pluto respectively (formerly known as P4 and P5). These names were backed by voters in a recently held popular contest, aimed at allowing the public to suggest names for the two recently discovered moons of the most famous dwarf planet in the Solar System.

Read the entire release. 


Pilots being temporarily blinded by green lasers a concern to astronomers

There has been a number of instances where pilots have been temporarily blinded by the light from green lasers.  People along the flight path are shining them at the aircraft.  Since green lasers have been used by many amateur astronomers, there has been some concern within the astronomy community that the astronomers are the first suspects.  The intense green laser beam can be used to point out stars and constellations in the sky. 

Here is a link to a recent article by Nicole Motillaro at Global News - Nicole is an Toronto Centre RASC member. 

Russian Proton Rocket fails to orbit satellites

A Russian Proton rocket failed during launch earlier today.  It seemed to lose thrust shortly after launch, pitched over and broke up just before hitting the ground.  Although no one was injured, there was some concern that the toxic rocket fuel could drift towards a populated area. 

The Proton rocket does not launch the Soyuz manned craft to the International Space Station. There is no word if all launches have been put on hold due to this mishap.