What is this about

This blog collects supplemental data on lesser worlds of the solar system (like Pluto and Titan) that have not (yet) been included in our books. You may contribute to our blog with brief articles that we will on your request also translate for our monolingual audience. The only precondition: Your content must in some way relate to dwarf planets or large moons of the solar system.

Send your text to: i n f o (youknowwhichsign) c o d e x - r e g i u s . e u

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Samstag, 30. Juli 2016

Clyde Tombaughs Pluto

(c) Codex Regius

So hätte Clyde Tombaugh am 23. Januar 1930 den Pluto gesehen, wenn ihm ein Instrument wie das Hubble-Teleskop zur Verfügung gestanden hätte. Beachtet, dass ihm die von der New Horizons nicht erfasste Südhalbkugel zugewandt war, deshalb ist eine detailliertere Auflösung nicht simulierbar. Deutlich zu erkennen ist allerdings die dunkle Cthulhu Regio am unteren Bildrand.

Dieses Bild wurde erstellt mit Celestia 1.6.1 und digital nachbearbeitet.

Donnerstag, 28. Juli 2016

Nullpreisaktion: Die deutsche eBuch-Ausgabe nur dieses Wochenende kostenlos!

Nach der englischen zieht die deutsche eBuch-Ausgabe von "Pluto & Charon" nach: Am kommenden Wochenende, dem 30. und 31. Juli 2016, ist die kindle-Version unseres Bildbandes zur Raumsondenmission New Horizons vorübergehend kostenlos abrufbar. Verschaffen Sie sich einen Eindruck, wie der Band aussehen würde, wenn Sie ihn auf Papier vor sich hätten. ;-)

Bei dieser Gelegenheit möchte ich auch auf den Vortrag zu Pluto und seinen Monden hinweisen, der am Montag, dem 10.10.2016, um 20:00 Uhr bei der Astronomischen Gesellschaft Urania in der Volkssternwarte auf der Martin-Niemöller-Schule am Moltkering, Wiesbaden, stattfinden wird. Hier werden Sie auch die Gelegenheit erhalten, mehr über die neuesten Auswertungen des immer noch andauernden Datenflusses zwischen der Raumsonde New Horizons und der Erde zu erfahren, die erst nach Redaktionsschluss des vorliegenden Buches publiziert wurden. Ein Live-Videomitschnitt des vorausgegangenen Vortrags am 16. März 2016 ist hier abrufbar: 

Da nach einer ePub-Ausgabe gefragt wurde: Die wird es auch geben, allerdings erst ab Oktober 2016, wenn die Exklusivrechte beim Programm KDP-Select abgelaufen sind.

Montag, 25. Juli 2016

An ammonia-water slurry may swirl below Pluto's icy surface

And another lucky strike for Edmond Hamilton? He has made this proposal in 1940, too, to explain a fictitious liquid ocean - Avernus Mare - on his vision of Pluto; just that his argument was based on salt, not ammonia.

Pluto’s Surface ​May Be Alive Thanks To Planetary Antifreeze

Sonntag, 24. Juli 2016

"Pluto & Charon" still available for free - running out!

Nix, Pluto and Charon, enhanced image computed by Celestra 1.6.1
Just a few hours left to download the ebook version of our "Pluto & Charon" pictorial volume from kdp and/or Amazon for free! The printed edition, published in June 2016, is full-colour and US-letter-sized to display the best images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft in all their splendour. (No, I have no idea why the price in US-Dollars is so much out of proportion in comparison to Pounds and Euros. Blame Amazon for that, it's their odd calculation.)

"In this book its two authors have managed to present the intriguing results of New Horizons’ Pluto flyby in a mode that non-professionals will understand, without waiving appropriate scientific accuracy.
Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and stayed the only known large object in the outer solar system for more than 60 years. Then, since the 1990s, improved CCD technology helped track down more than a thousand other objects in the ‘Kuiper Belt’. The size of some of them came close to Pluto, and Eris, photographed in 2003 but escaping notice till 2005, threatened even to replace it as the biggest object in the Kuiper Belt. The result was a re-definition of the term ‘planet’ by the general assembly of the International Astronomical Union, held in Prague in summer 2006. Pluto is no longer called a planet since. From the perspective of celestial mechanics, this decision may be reasonable and logical because Pluto does something that a decent planet should not do: It crosses the orbit of another planet. The large planet Neptune has forced small Pluto and several hundred, recently discovered, smaller bodies called plutinos into a 3:2 orbital resonance by its gravitational force that avoids any collisions with Neptune.
Fortunately, half a year had already passed since the launch of the New Horizons spacecraft when the new definition of the term ‘planet’ was voted about. If Pluto had not been a planet at that time any more, some overzealous US-senators might have simply cancelled its construction to add the money saved to their military budget. (This was what had indeed happened to the Dawn spacecraft for some months.) In such a case, the wonderful close-ups of this amazing world at the very edge of the solar system would have escaped us.
With the findings of New Horizons in mind, said new definition should be reconsidered. I am sure that the voting would have had a different result if we had already known back then what New Horizons has revealed to us about Pluto. The new definition is based on celestial mechanics only and does not take Pluto’s peculiarities into account that it has from the planetologist’s point of view. It has more characteristics of a regular planet than the twice as large inner planet Mercury: While Mercury is a grey orb whose surface has primarily been shaped by impacts, New Horizons has shown us Pluto as a body with a distinctive geology of its own from far away already. There are diverse types of terrain present: mountainous areas alternate with smooth plains of nitrogen glaciers in which water icebergs are drifting about, driven to the edges of convection cells by up-welling heat; their dark summits peak out like islands.
Unlike airless Mercury, Pluto does have an atmosphere that does not simply become more tenuous from inside out, but it is many-layered in the very meaning of the word: images of Pluto‘s rim reveal several banks of haze at different levels above ground. There must be some kind of weather as well. As Pluto heads on to those parts of its orbit that are remote from the sun, a part of its atmosphere will freeze out and precipitate on its surface, only to thaw again when it is back to perihelion - 200 years later. And one of the images, scientists believe, even seems to depict a cloud bank.
Moreover, Pluto has a complex satellite system comprised of five moons, and their periods resonate with each other and they are almost exact multiples of the revolutional period of the biggest moon, Charon. Compare this to the fact that Mercury and Venus have no moons at all, our Earth, one, Mars, two small ones, and among the minor planets there are only systems with up to two moons known.
Even though Pluto may not be elevated to planet status again, our solar system and the eight planets that are officially left will presumably not represent the complete image yet. During the last few years, six lesser bodies have been discovered far away whose perihelions (their points of closest approach to the sun) are located far beyond Neptune and the Kuiper Belt. And their orbits are close together in space, which may perhaps not be explained by chance alone. These objects measure less than 1,000 km in diameter, and therefore, they are certainly not proper planets. But they cannot have developed out there, in empty space. Something larger must have taken them so far out from the sun, like Neptune has set the plutinos and other objects of the Kuiper Belt on their courses.
Mike Brown, he who has initiated Pluto’s demolition by discovering almost Pluto-sized Eris, supposes that a planet may be lurking out there that has about 10 times the mass of the Earth. Such a behemoth would certainly fit the new criteria for ‘proper’ planets, and Mike Brown has already assigned the unofficial name Planet Nine to it. Based on the data of those six farthest bodies, an approximate orbit of this still hypothetical planet can be also computed. According to these values, it travels around the sun 700 times as far out as Earth and 30 times as far out as Neptune, spending about 20,000 years on one revolution. But at which point of its orbit it might be at the moment, that cannot be computed.
That this planet has not been discovered yet should not struck anyone by surprise. Since the brightness of a body decreases by the fourth power of its distance from the sun, even an object as large as Neptune would be a million times dimmer than that. Mike Brown is rather confident, however, that his Planet Nine will be detected within the next 5 to 10 years by improved sky survey programmes. Once it has been located, a spacecraft will certainly be sent to this planet, and the two authors behind the Codex Regius label are no doubt already standing ready to publish the results of this flyby in a book. If NASA should take recent plans of a laser-powered interstellar miniature probe serious, this might even happen within our lifetime.
We have waited long enough for the Pluto flyby.
But … it has been worth waiting, that you will see on the following pages!"

Dr Rainer Riemann

Heidelberg, in June 2016

Freitag, 22. Juli 2016

Pluto 1940 and today

(c) E. Hamilton/gemeinfrei*; NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

* Note: according to Art. 72 Abs (3) UrHG, the left image
is in public domain by applying German regulations

Have you ever heard of Edmond Hamilton, the SF-author from the Golden Age? On the left is shown how he imagined Pluto - in 1940! - in his Pulp SF series "Captain Future". We see the eastern hemisphere of Pluto, discovered just 10 years before, and its three moons called Charon, Cerberus/Kerberos and Styx that, according to Hamilton, would be discovered around 1970. Charon is the largest of Pluto's fictitious moons.

Right: Images of the New Horizons spacecraft, shot in 2015, showing the eastern hemisphere of Pluto (at 270°) and its three moons Charon, Kerberos and Styx including the dates of discovery. Note the ring-shaped structure in the lower right quadrant of both images.
In his novel "Calling Captain Future", published in 1940, Hamilton described a manned landing on Pluto's surface in the light of its three moons. One of the features described are the Marching Mountains - water ice glaciers pushed across Pluto's surface at rapid speed. New Horizons found the Marching Mountains on Sputnik Planum!

This is so odd that I could not refrain from mentioning it in my lecture to the Astronomical Society Urania in March 2014 (Video recording - alas, in German only).
Hamilton's stupefying visions are fully quoted and discussed in our "Pluto & Charon" pictorial, published in June 2016, that gives an overview of the initial results of the New Horizons mission, including data from the articles published in "Science" on March 2016. 

Donnerstag, 21. Juli 2016

Pluto Articles: The Surface of Sputnik Planum must be less than 10 million years

Data from the New Horizons mission to Pluto show no craters on Sputnik Planum down to the detection limit (2 km for low resolution data, 625 m for high resolution data). The number of small Kuiper Belt Objects that should be impacting Pluto is known to some degree from various astronomical surveys. We combine these geological and telescopic observations to make an order of magnitude estimate that the surface age of Sputnik Planum must be less than 10 million years. This maximum surface age is surprisingly young and implies that this area of Pluto must be undergoing active resurfacing, presumably through some cryo-geophysical process. We discuss three possible resurfacing mechanisms and the implications of each one for Pluto’s physical properties.

Impact interval onto Sputnik Planum, Pluto, in Earth years as a function of impactor size.

The Surface Age of Sputnik Planum

"Pluto & Charon" e-book available for free - but only for two days!

This is a simulation of what Clyde Tombaugh would have seen on 23 January 1930 if he had a better telescope - say, like the Hubble. ;-) Note that he was looking at the south pole, the part not cartographed by New Horizons, hence, no better resolution is available.

And these are the positions of Pluto and its five moons on the day Tombaugh first looked at them.

The images were created with the assistance of Celestia 1.6.1 to accompany our "Pluto & Charon" pictorial volume whose e-book edition - but only the English one! - will be available for free next Saturday and Sunday, 22 and 23 July, from kdp and/or Amazon.
There is no change to the full-colour print edition (don't blame me for the seemingly forbidding price in Dollars, compared to those in Pounds and Euros - the computation was Amazon's, not mine!)

Dienstag, 19. Juli 2016

Pluto Articles: Pluto Follows Its Cold, Cold Heart

Why is Sputnik Planum exactly facing away from Charon? This article examines Pluto's dynamics and draws the astonishing conclusion that its axis may actually be unstable, owing to the relative distribution of volatile ices on the surface. So what would actually happen if Sputnik Planum would at times melt up, as we propose in our book? Is it conceivable that on such occasions it might actually "see" Charon rising one day?

Falls jemand diesen Artikel noch nicht gesehen hat: Hier diskutieren Experten, warum das Sputnik Planum genau von Charon abgewandt ist, und kommen zu dem Schluss, dass Umverteilungen der flüchtigen Eise an der Oberfläche Plutos Achse zum Taumeln bringen können. Was würde also tatsächlich geschehen, wenn das Sputnik Planum sich zeitweise verflüssigte, wie wir in unserem Buch vorschlagen? Könnte irgendwann der Charon über seinem Horizont aufgehen?

Pluto follows its cold, cold heart

Sputnik Planum, the left lobe of Pluto’s heart, is a vast expanse of mostly frozen nitrogen that lies close to the dwarf planet’s equator — too close to be mere coincidence, two UA planetary researchers suggest. So much ice has piled up here that it could have dragged the entire planet with it and reoriented its spin axis, they think. Charon is seen in the background. (Image: James Keane)

Freitag, 15. Juli 2016

Ein Todesstern, den Lovecraft persönlich ersonnen haben muss

I knew this strange, grey world was not my own,
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids 

(Ich wusste: Diese fremde graue Welt war nicht die meine,
sondern Yuggoth jenseits der Sternenleeren)
H.P. Lovecraft: Fungi from Yuggoth
(c) Codex Regius

Was sagt es eigentlich aus, wenn die Experten schreiben, Charon sei am Plutohimmel über siebenmal größer als der Erdmond an unserem? Dieser unmittelbare Vergleich nimmt dieselbe - antarktische - Landschaft daher und versetzt sie im unteren Bild probehalber in den westlichen "Schwanz" der Cthulhu Regio auf dem Pluto, in eine Gegend, in der Charon noch tief über dem Horizont steht (da Pluto ihm stets dieselbe Seite zuwendet, wandert er anders als unser Mond von dort auch nicht weg).

In Kapitel 7 von "Pluto & Charon - Die Sonde New Horizons in den fernsten Weltenweiten" ist die im unteren Bild dargestellte Szene wie folgt beschrieben:

Welch ein Anblick müsste es sein, wenn Captain Future mit seinem Raumschiff über der Sputnik Planum absteigt und nach Westen fliegt? Dahin rast es über die einladend weite Stickstofffläche; dann muss er den Bug hochziehen, als vor ihm die Eisinseln der Baré Montes und die tausende von Metern hohe Küstenlinie auftauchen. Bald ziehen die endlos düsteren Höhenzüge der Cthulhu Regio unter ihm dahin. Vereinzelt blitzen frische Eisgletscher auf den Gipfeln wie Tautropfen. Das Sonnenlicht reicht eben noch aus, die Farbe des Bodens erkennen zu lassen: Er ist getüncht mit trübrotem Tholin, ein mit geronnenem Blut geflutetes Schlachtfeld, mehr Yuggoth als Pluto. 

   Da tritt eine aschfarbene Kuppel hinter den Bergen hervor. Sie schwillt zu einer Scheibe und löst sich schließlich gewaltig vom Westhorizont. Das ist Charon, Plutos abstoßender Bruder. Sieben Mal größer als der irdische Vollmond kriecht er am Himmel empor, und von dort lächelt kein Mann im Mond herab. Grausig ist das Licht, dass dieser furchtbare Riesensatellit wirft. Nicht nur tot ist er, sondern ermordet: Tiefe Klüfte spalten ihn von einer Seite zur anderen wie eine Hirnschale, die eine Axt zerschmettert hat. Als sei das Blut von Cthulhus Schlachtfeld so weit hinauf gespritzt, dass es sogar den Trabanten befleckte, breitet sich an seinem Scheitel ein zwielichtrot geronnener Fleck aus: ein Todesstern, den Lovecraft persönlich ersonnen haben muss!  

Donnerstag, 14. Juli 2016

A Death-star that Lovecraft himself must have made up

I knew this strange, grey world was not my own,
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids 

H.P. Lovecraft: Fungi from Yuggoth

What does it mean when scientists say, Charon was more than seven times larger in Pluto's sky than the Moon is in the sky of Earth? This direct comparison takes the very same setting on Earth, in Antarctica, and in the lower image relocates it into the Western "tail" of the Cthulhu Regio where Charon is still low above the horizon. 

In chapter 7 of "Pluto & Charon - The New Horizons spacecraft at the farthest worldly shores", the scene shown in the lower image is described like this:

What a sight would that be if Captain Future steered his spaceship down to the Sputnik Planum and headed westwards? On his ship races above the inviting broad nitrogen surface; then he is forced to pull steeply up when the icy islands of Baré Montes and the coastal line rising thousands of metres high behind come into view. Soon, the infinitely sombre ridges of the Cthulhu Regio march along beneath the ship. Just here and there, fresh ice glaciers flash on peaks like dewdrops. Faint sunlight just about manages to reveal the colour of the soil. it is dyed with dimly red tholin: a battlefield flooded under clotted blood, Yuggoth rather than Pluto.

   Suddenly an ashen dome looms forth behind the mountains. It grows to a disk and eventually withdraws from the western horizon, hugely blown up. This is Charon, Pluto’s repulsive brother. Seven times wider than Earth’s full moon it creeps up the sky, and no man in the moon smiles down from there. Ghastly is indeed the light cast by this dreadful orbiting giant. Not just dead it looks but murdered: Deep chasms cleft it apart from one side to another like a skull cloven by an axe. As if the blood from Cthulhu’s battlelands had gushed so high that it even stained the satellite, another clotted spot spreads twilight-red across its apex: a Death-star that Lovecraft himself must have made up!

Mittwoch, 13. Juli 2016

Pluto 1940 und heute

(c) E. Hamilton/gemeinfrei*; NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

* Hinweis: Nach §72 Abs (3) UrHG sind Lichtbilder und andere
Reproduktionen 50 Jahre nach ihrer Erstveröffentlichung gemeinfrei.

Mit der linken Abbildung illustrierte Edmond Hamilton 1940 seine Heftromanserie "Captain Future". Sie zeigt die östliche Hemisphäre des erst zehn Jahre zuvor entdeckten Plutos sowie drei Monde namens Charon, Cerberus/Kerberos und Styx, die laut Hamilton um 1970 entdeckt würden. Charon ist der größte seiner Plutomonde.

Rechts zusammengestellt: Aufnahmen der Raumsonde New Horizons von 2015 mit der östlichen Hemisphäre Plutos (beim 270. Längengrad) und den drei Monden Charon, Kerberos und Styx nebst Entdeckungsdatum. Beachten Sie die ringförmige Struktur im unteren rechten Quadranten beider Abbildungen.

Im 1940 erschienenen Roman "Calling Captain Future" (deutsch bei Golkonda: Erde in Gefahr) beschrieb Hamilton eine Landung auf der Plutooberfläche im Schein der drei Monde. Zu den dargestellten Erscheinungen zählen die Wandernden Berge - Gletscher aus Wassereis, die auf der Plutooberfläche entlanggeschoben werden. New Horizons wies das Vorhandensein solcher Wandernden Berge auf der Ebene Sputnik Planum nach!

Die visionären Textpassagen aus Hamiltons Roman werden im Sachbuch "Pluto & Charon" ausführlich zitiert und behandelt. Der im Juni 2016 erschienene Band ist über Createspace erhältlich. 

Das ist so merkwürdig, dass ich nicht widerstehen konnte, es in meinem Vortrag bei der Astronomischen Gesellschaft Urania im vergangenen März anzusprechen, von dem es hier einen Videomitschnitt gibt. 

Freitag, 8. Juli 2016


A recent article on Charon with a different perspective. The Chasmata, BTW, are the clefts cleaving the plutoward hemisphere in two:

This image shows part of the feature informally named Serenity Chasma, part of a vast equatorial belt of chasms on Charon. This system of faults and fractures runs at least 1,100 miles (about 1,800 kilometers) long and, in places, there are chasms 4.5 miles (7.5 kilometers) deep. By comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 kilometers) long and just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep.


Montag, 4. Juli 2016

Pluto Articles: Red, Rough, Fast, and Perturbed

On its way out from Pluto, New Horizons observed a red thing in space:

1994 JR1. (c) NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

"The 3:2 resonant KBO (15810) 1994 JR1 was observed by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on November 2, 2015 from a distance of 1.85 AU, and again on April 7, 2016 from a distance of 0.71 AU. Acquired using the LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), these were the first close observations of any KBO other than Pluto, and the first ever of a small KBO. Combining ground-based and HST observations at small phase angles and the LORRI observations at higher phase angles, we produced the first disk-integrated solar phase curve of a typical KBO from alpha=0.6-58 degrees. Observations at these geometries, attainable only from a spacecraft in the outer Solar System, constrain surface properties such as macroscopic roughness and the single particle phase function. 1994 JR1 has a rough surface with a 37+/-5 degree mean topographic slope angle and has a relatively rapid rotation period of 5.47+/-0.33 hours. 1994 JR1 is currently 2.7 AU from Pluto; our astrometric points enable high-precision orbit determination and integrations which show that it comes this close to Pluto every 2.4 million years, causing Pluto to perturb 1994 JR1. During the November spacecraft observation, the KBO was simultaneously observed using the Hubble Space Telescope in two colors, confirming its very red spectral slope. These observations have laid the groundwork for numerous potential future distant KBO observations in the proposed New Horizons-Kuiper Belt Extended Mission."

Read the original article:

Freitag, 1. Juli 2016

Nix and the Binary Planet

Seen from ‪#‎Nix‬, there can be little doubt that ‪#‎Pluto‬ and ‪#‎Charon‬ are in fact a binary planet.

This is a digital simulation I generated with Celestia 1.6.1 and overlaid New Horizons shots for our book "Pluto & Charon", published this month. 

Pluto & Charons Foto.
(c) Codex Regius/Celestia 1.6.1; NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI 


Preface by Dr Rainer Riemann, University of Heidelberg
1 Nine years of approach
1.1 At the garden door (6 Dec 2014 - 10 Mar 2015)
1.2 Course set - ignition! (10 March 2015)
1.3 Approach phase 2 (5 April 2015)
1.4 Approach phase 3 (24 June - 7 July)
1.5 The last week of flying time (7 to 13 July)

2 Tombaugh’s bowl of ice
2.1 A heart for Pluto
2.2 Skating on the Sputnik Planum
2.3 A young sea, a young moon
2.4 The extending atmosphere
2.5 Hydra lifting heads

3 Eighty years of misconceptions
3.1 From the Grand Tour to New Horizons: The long march to Pluto

4 Down on the surface
4.1 Basin and coasts of the Sputnik Planum
4.2 East of the Tombaugh Regio
4.3 A Washboard and other clefts
4.4 The distant regions on the mainland

5 What is Pluto made of ?
5.1 Pluto’s volatile ices
5.2 Water: The solid bedrock of Pluto
5.3 Play of colours
5.4 Light and dark

6 Sky and Weather
6.1 And now, the weather report
6.2 Poisonous gas in the Atmosphere
6.3 High fog expected
6.4 Weak or moderate winds
6.5 Who has dyed Charon?

7 Charon: the dichotomous moon
7.1 What is Charon made of
7.2 Dissimilar twins

8 Nix that photo: the minor moons
9 And on to PT1
9.1 A new target
9.2 19 January 2016: 10 years of flying time!
9.3 Will there be an Extended Mission?

Appendix: Technical Data