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Pluto may be blue in these images, but they're making scientists on Earth very happy. The Hubble Space Telescope spies a "misbehaving" galaxy. Take a thrilling trip over the cratered landscape of Ceres in a new video. It's Science Pics of the Week!
OUT OF THIS WORLD | Science Pics of the Week - a weekly collection of the best images from science, space and beyond

Science Pics of the Week: Pluto is bluer than we thought


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Friday, January 29, 2016, 1:02 PM - Pluto may be blue in these images, but they're making scientists on Earth very happy. The Hubble Space Telescope spies a "misbehaving" galaxy. Take a thrilling trip over the cratered landscape of Ceres in a new video. It's Science Pics of the Week!

Happy to see a "blue" Pluto

Scientists have already showed us the remarkably blue, hazy atmosphere of Pluto in previous releases, but those studying the data and images sent back by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft are reporting some great new discoveries this week.


False-colour images of Pluto, with data from the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument showing water ice. Left is data only showing pure water ice. Right is showing pure water ice and mixed ices which contain water ice. Credits: NASA/JHUIAPL/SwRI

According to NASA:

The new map shows exposed water ice to be considerably more widespread across Pluto's surface than was previously known — an important discovery. But despite its much greater sensitivity, the map still shows little or no water ice in the informally named places called Sputnik Planum (the left or western region of Pluto's "heart") and Lowell Regio (far north on the encounter hemisphere). This indicates that at least in these regions, Pluto's icy bedrock is well hidden beneath a thick blanket of other ices such as methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide.

Data from LEISA is also giving the scientists a better look at Pluto's atmosphere, as shown below:


A look at Pluto's atmosphere from behind the planet, as sunlight filters through reveals that it looks blue in infrared too! Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

According to NASA:

The blue ring around Pluto is caused by sunlight scattering from haze particles common in Pluto's atmosphere; scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles – a fraction of a micrometer in size – which scatter sunlight to make the blue haze. The new infrared image, when combined with earlier images made at shorter, visible wavelengths, gives scientists new clues into the size distribution of the particles.
The whitish patches around Pluto’s limb in this image are sunlight bouncing off more reflective or smoother areas on Pluto's surface – with the largest patch being the western section of the informally named Cthulhu Regio. Future LEISA observations returned to Earth should capture the remainder of the haze, missing from the lower section of the image.


Hubble's latest look at "misbehaving" galaxy

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the best we have for deep space observations these days, and scientists often use it to "revisit" galaxies and other interesting targets in order to catch up on their progress.

Below is the latest Hubble image of spiral galaxy LO95 0313-192 - the one that's edge-on to Hubble's view.


Edge-on spiral galaxy LO95 0313-192 is seen here with its more picturesque companion, [LOY2001] J031549.8-190623. Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement, Judy Schmidt

Why is LO95 0313-192 significant enough to come back to, when we can only see it from this perspective?


A 2002 image of this region of space is overlaid by radio data (red) from the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Credit: NASA, W. Keel (University of Alabama), M. Ledlow (Gemini Observatory), F. Owen (NRAO) and AUI/NSF

As shown above, it was the very first galaxy that astronomers found to be emitting huge radio jets from its core.

According to NASA:

Jets, outbursts of superheated gas moving at close to the speed of light, have long been associated with the cores of giant elliptical galaxies, and galaxies in the process of merging. However, in an unexpected discovery, astronomers found LO95 0313-192, even though it is a spiral galaxy, to have intense radio jets spewing out from its center. The galaxy appears to have two more regions that are also strongly emitting in the radio part of the spectrum, making it even rarer still.


Take a ride over Ceres on NASA's Dawn spacecraft

According to NASA:

A colorful new animation shows a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft.
The movie shows Ceres in enhanced color, which helps to highlight subtle differences in the appearance of surface materials. Scientists believe areas with shades of blue contain younger, fresher material, including flows, pits and cracks.
The animated flight over Ceres emphasizes the most prominent craters, such as Occator, and the tall, conical mountain Ahuna Mons. Features on Ceres are named for earthly agricultural spirits, deities and festivals.

The images that went into making this animated flyover were taken during Dawn's High-Altitude Mapping Orbit (HAMO), from just over 1,400 kilometres above the dwarf planet's surface.

As exceptional as this look is, it is not the best.

Just image what it will look like when JPL scientists compile the first Low-Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) flyover, using images like these:

Sources: NASA | NASA | NASA/ESA/Hubble | Hubblesite | NASA JPL

Don't Miss: RARE - It's been 10-years but the planets are putting on a show for us!

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