The Encounter with Pluto

On July 14, 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft will encounter Pluto and return history-making images of this distant dwarf planet. Here are a few resources that feature this historic event!

Don't forget to return to this location in the coming weeks for new resources!

  • Exploring the Dwarf Planets Scientists can learn a lot about the inside of a dwarf planet  by making very precise measurements of its diameter and  mass. From these measurements, average densities (mass  divided by volume) can be figured out. The density of an  object gives us a clue as to whether it is mostly rocky  or mostly icy.  (PDF).
  • Exploring the Dwarf Planet Ceres Counting and measuring craters on Ceres can provide insights  into the cratering process that created its surface. It  appears to have fewer large craters than scientists had  expected to see, a possible indication that most of the  material that came together to form Ceres was smaller  asteroids. (PDF).
  • Triton: The Twin of Pluto? Triton is only slightly larger than Pluto. Both worlds  have similar surface materials, such as nitrogen, methane  and carbon monoxide. Their diameters, masses and  densities are amazingly similar.  (PDF).
  • The Amazing Journey to Pluto! Deep space missions can take up to 10 years from  development to launch. For New Horizons, it took  close to 20 years from the time that scientists  conceived of the mission to the time it reached  its destination!  (PDF).
  • Exploring Interplanetary Communication On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches  dwarf planet Pluto and begins sending data back to Earth.  At that time, the distance from Earth to Pluto is 4.8 billion  kilometers. At the speed of light, one-way radio signal travel  time is 16,000 seconds or 4 hours and 27 minutes. (PDF).
  • Modeling the Interior of Pluto This interactive Excel spreadsheet lets you create a model of the interior of Pluto based on its diameter, mass and the densities of ice and rock. (Download .xlsx file).
  • Book: Exploring the Dwarf Planets. This book describes how missions like New Horizonms and Dawn are created, built, launched and how they return data back to Earth. Essays describe spacecraft design, STEM careers, and a series of 22 scientific and engineering ideas that form the basis for these missions. A discussion of dwarf planets and why Pluto was 'demoted' is also provided. (Under Development!).
  • Introducing SpaceMath@NASA

    SPACEMATH: The 'M' in STEM education for science and math educators.

    SpaceMath@NASA introduces students to the use of mathematics in today's scientific discoveries. Through press releases and other articles, we explore how many kinds of mathematics skills come together in exploring the universe. [Press Release]

    • Number One on GOOGLE (space+math)
      • 35,000 visitors per month
        • 12 million problem downloads
          • Exemplary NASA STEM resource