Tantalizing Pluto views suggest active surface but won't be seen again for 161 years
Fortunate observations of Pluto fully illuminated may help scientists understand what's happening on the dwarf planet's surface.
Science & Tech
For a brief moment in time in July 2018, the solar system aligned to show Earth the fully sunlit disk of Pluto, an arrangement that won't occur again for 161 years.
Planetary scientist Bonnie Buratti was ready: She had been waiting for a decade for the opportunity to catch the rare sight in hopes of filling a gap in knowledge that even the carefully planned New Horizons mission couldn't tackle. The result is an enigmatic plot of light from Pluto and its moon, Charon.
"We grasped this once-in-a-lifetime — well it's once in more than a lifetime, once in two centuries — opportunity to see Pluto fully illuminated," Buratti, who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and is the lead author on a new paper presenting the observations, told Space.com.