Beyond Earth Orbit

News and views from the final frontier


July 2015

Pluto in colour


Less than a fortnight out from New Horizons’ flyby of everyone’s favourite maligned dwarf planet, Pluto, the spacecraft is starting to reveal details of the planet’s surface features.

Pluto appears red like Mars, but for very different reasons. Mars’ colouring is due to iron oxide (rust, basically) in

its soil. But according to NASA in Pluto’s case it is, “likely caused by hydrocarbon molecules that are formed when cosmic rays and solar ultraviolet light interact with methane in Pluto’s atmosphere and on its surface”.

Pluto: The other Red Planet



Hello and welcome to Beyond Earth Orbit – a blog devoted to space exploration in the Solar System and beyond.

It’s an exciting time in space exploration, with NASA’s New Horizons probe due to give us our first ever close-up look at the dwarf planet Pluto in July 2015.  The European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander are travelling with comet 67p/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as it closes on its closest approach to the Sun in August.

The Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity rover, meanwhile, continues to make amazing discoveries in Gale Crater on the red planet.

This blog will bring you news and pictures of these missions as they break.

Comments and feedback are welcomed.

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