Stamp Sets Out-of-This-World Record

A 1991 US Postal stamp depicting Pluto with the caption “Unexplored” has been identified by Guinness World Records as the stamp which has traveled the furthest. The stamp was placed on board the New Horizon space craft and has flown more than 5.25 billion kilometers. The stamp continues to accrue mileage as it continues on its journey to 2014 MU69, 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto.
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Pluto Telescope Restoration

One year ago today, New Horizon achieved perihadean, flying close to Pluto and beginning the process of downloading photos and data that have given us a whole new understanding of the world. The telescope Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto in 1930 is in need of restoration and the Lowell Observatory has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help restore this piece of American astronomical history.
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Star Trek Stamps

The United States Post Office has announced that they will release a series of four stamps to mark the 50th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Trek television series. The designs show the starship Enterprise within the Starfleet insignia, the silhouette of a crewman caught in a transporter beam, the Enterprise shown from above, and the Vulcan hand salute often used by one of the show’s leading characters, Mr. Spock, framing a view of the Enterprise in orbit around a planet.

Several stamps with space themes, including a series commemorating the exploration of Pluto, a series focusing on the other 8 planets in the solar system, and a stamp with an image of the moon will also be issued in 2016.

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Next Stop: 2014 MU69

NASA’s New Horizons team has determined that the probe’s next target will be the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, which isn’t quite as lyrical as “Pluto,” but will probably receive a more mythical name before the probe reaches it. Discovered only last year, the 45 km wide object is about a billion miles beyond Pluto and just happens to be in the right location for a flyby.
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Perihadean Achieved

The New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to the planet Pluto today, following a nine year voyage. New Horizons has been sending back a stream of pictures of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, over the past week and will resume sending out more images over the next couple of months.

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Name That Moon

In 2011 and 2012, two new moons were discovered in orbit around Pluto. Called P4 and P5, the scientists who discovered the moons have put up a poll asking internet users to select from one of twelve names (or to write in a suggestion) as to what the moons should be called. The choices, all of which have a mythical tie to the underworld, are Acheron, Alecto, Cerberus, Erebus, Eurydice, Hercules, Hypnos, Lethe, Obol, Orpheus, Persephone, and Styx.

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Pluto + 4

Scientists have announced the discovery of a fourth moon in orbit around Pluto. Pluto’s first discovered moon, Charon, was found in 1978. Two more moons, Nyx and Hydra, were identified in 2005. The new moon, which is currently called P4, is believed to be between 13 and 34 km in diameter and orbits Pluto every 32 days at a distance of about 59,000 km, between the orbits of Nyx and Hydra.

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Change Among the Plutoids

Recent measurements of Eris, the dwarf planet discovered in 2005 which led to the reclassification of Pluto, indicate that the object may be smaller than originally believed. Eris’s high density means that the plutoid is most likely smaller, although more massive, the Pluto, which may now be the largest of the dwarf planets. The new measurements of Eris were conducted during an occultation by the plutoid of a star in Cetus, observed in the Chilean Andes on November 6.

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Dwarf Planet Definition Offered

Although astronomers created a definition for a Dwarf Planet in 2006, the definition only dealt with the upper size limit. Now, astronomers Charles Lineweaver and Marc Norman at the Australian National University in Canberra, have offered a definition for the lower end of dwarf planets, stating that a dwarf planet must have a circumference of at least 200 miles. Lineweaver and Norman selected that figure because anything larger will naturally form into a sphere, while anything small will retain a lumpier shape. The IAU has yet to debate and vote on the issue.

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Obituary: Venetia Phair

Venetia Phair (b.1918) died on April 30. Born Venetia Burney, in 1930, she suggested to her grandfather, Falconer Madan, that the new planet discovered by Clyde Tombaugh should be named Pluto, after the god of the underworld. Madan passed her suggestion on to astronomer Frederick Hall Turner and the name was eventually adopted.