Video shows Pluto space weather is a trippy experience

9 Dec 2015

Psychedelic Pluto image via NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Long after it first made its closest approach to Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft has been able to reveal a huge amount of data on the surrounding space weather, which has now all been revealed in a trippy NASA video.

By knowing what Pluto space weather, and the space weather of wherever a spacecraft is going, is like, scientists are better able to predict the effects it will have on the craft’s mission.

Just like when a ship hits stormy seas, a spacecraft hitting stormy, irradiated, invisible waves could spell an untimely end.

Whether it’s solar winds or the tsunami-like coronal mass ejections (CME), space is filled with invisible barriers that are best avoided, or managed appropriately by a spacecraft.

For the New Horizons mission, NASA was able to combine predictions of several models and events that had long since passed Earth, and use them to create a simulation that started from January 2015.

This, NASA said, was because the particles that would be passing Pluto in July would have originated six months previously, but take that long to get there.

This new, combined model tracks CMEs longer than ever before and has been named the Enlil model after the Sumerian god of the wind.

As you’ll see in the video, the ejections of CMEs and solar winds appear as a hypnotic circling effect that show the real distance of Pluto and how at the time of New Horizons’ flyby, one of the solar waves just caught up with the craft and dwarf planet.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic