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New, Spectacular NASA Visualization Predicts Space Weather Around Pluto (VIDEO)

First Posted: Dec 10, 2015 03:53 PM EST
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NASA has released a new simulation of the environment found on Pluto. Using information from the New Horizon spacecraft, researchers have gotten a closer look at the weather surrounding the tiny planet.

Though the vacuum of space is about a thousand times emptier than a laboratory vacuum, it's still not completely empty. The sun releases a constant stream of particles called the solar wind, as well as occasional denser clouds of particles known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Both of these contain embedded magnetic fields.

In order to map the space environment of Pluto, the scientists combined the predictions of several models. They then looked at events that had long since passed Earth.

"We set the simulation to start in January 2015, because the particles passing Pluto in July 2015 took some six months to make the journey from the sun," said Dusan Odstcil, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The new, combined model tracks CMEs longer than ever before. Because particles must travel for many months before reaching Pluto, the CMEs eventually spread out and merge with other CMEs and the solar wind to form larger clouds of particles and magnetic field. These combined clouds stretch out as they travel away from the sun, forming thin ring shapes by the time they reach Pluto, quite different from the typical balloon shape of CMEs seen here at Earth.

The findings reveal a bit more about the conditions surrounding Pluto, which may tell researchers a bit more about the planet.

For more information, check out NASA's New Horizons mission page.

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