Witty World

Thursday, September 24, 2015

NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Beyond, (WIS - Pawan Baug)

At Witty International School we inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others. In keeping up with this philosophy WIS recently organized a seminar for the students on “NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Beyond.” To enrich the students on this the school had invited an esteemed Planetary Scientist, Dr. Henry Throop. Throop is a Senior Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, USA. His work focuses on the outer solar system, and he has published over 40 articles in scientific journals, on topics ranging from torings of Saturn and Jupiter, to planet and star formation, to astrobiology and the origins of life, to searching for (and co-discovering) Pluto's smallest moon, Styx, in 2012. He is a frequent consultant to the US's NASA and the National Science Foundation.  While working at NASA, he was responsible for the oversight and management of two of the NASA's major scientific research programs. Throop has been a member of the science team for NASA’s New Horizons mission since 2003, and was involved in its historic flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015.Throop’s work has been featured in Science, Nature, Time, The Washington Post, and on the History Channel and National Geographic TV. 

After a nine-year journey though space, astronomers visited Pluto for the first time in July 2015, using a robotic NASA spacecraft called New Horizons. Despite being a cold and small icy body, New Horizons found Pluto’s surface to be young, dynamic, and varied. Planetary Scientist Dr. Henry Throop told the story of this NASA spacecraft mission, from its development and construction, through launch in 2006, to its successful encounter with Pluto, and its plans for onward encounters with bodies in the distant Kuiper Belt.

New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe launched as part of NASA’s New Frontiers program to study Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper belt (just outside our solar system). Pluto is the now classified ‘dwarf planet’ at the end of our solar system, around 6-7.5 billion kilometers away and when New Horizons reached it in July 2015, it had been travelling for 11 years to get there.

 For quite a long time dreams of interstellar travel and exploring the final frontier have run rampant in the minds of children and scientists alike, and with some of the latest breakthroughs in technology and research NASA scientists have laid out goals to achieve manned flight to the edge of our Solar System in 50 years Pluto has proven to be much different from the predictions also. Due to its distance from the sun, probable composition and location it was expected to be cold, boring and covered in craters from collisions. However, it’s proving to be very interesting with heart shaped fields of nitrogen ice and 3500 meter high ice clouds of water. It is also surprisingly warm for an object so far from the sun!

Dr. Henry Throop started by speaking to the students about Pluto’s discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh studying photographs of the night sky. Constellations stay in the same place but planets move and using this he was also able to see a spot in the images that changed over time and so Pluto was revealed. The New Horizons initiative along with the collaboration of NASA, U.S.A sent a space craft to find more about the not so revealed secrets of Pluto and it took 9 years to finally get the true images of Pluto. Dr. Throop was involved with the calibration of instruments on board New Horizons, including the infrared spectrometer, which measures energy that is given off in the infrared wavelength. Since launch, he has been involved with planning observations, specifically those looking for new moons or rings of Pluto. Dr. Throop , an advocate for increasing the public's awareness in the society stated, “I think it’s really important that we, as scientists, don’t sort of keep all that stuff for ourselves. A, that’s greedy, B, it’s boring, and C, it doesn’t help out the rest of the world if we just keep it to ourselves. We have a responsibility to talk to the public and show them how cool it is that we are able to explore the world around us and explain it better than we could a decade ago, or twenty years ago, or a hundred years ago." Dr. Throop offered inspirational advice to Wittians, “Just do what you want to do. Do what you’re going to enjoy most: something that makes you happy and fulfills your curiosity… Work on neat, cool projects that interest you and interest other people.” 

Throop stated that New Horizons' future looks bright. In the next couple of years, the team will choose one or more Kuiper belt objects to travel to, assuming that NASA funds and approves their plan.  Kuiper belt objects are small, icy bodies beyond Pluto, similar to Pluto but a little smaller and further out. Following the talk our students got the chance to ask probing questions to Dr Throop about Pluto and the mission. Dr Throop also spoke about his inspiration for pursuing science from his Physics teacher at school. This inspiration and the fact that he found Astrophysics easy and fun meant he wanted to go further and make this as his career.

Mr. Bijo Kurian, the Principal of Witty International School, Pawan Baug quoted, “ Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another,  to explore strange new world and to boldly go where no man has gone before & hence students of today need to be engaged in these thought process.” Following the seminar Dr. Throop also launched the state of the art Science Lab- “Curiocity” at Witty International School, Pawan Baug.The exhilaration amongst the students  instilled a sense of better understanding and enhanced the scientific curiosity among the students.




© 2010 Witty International School, All rights reserved
Website by En Interactive Technologies Pvt. Ltd.