I became a member of the New Horizons spacecraft team just in time to participate in the flyby of Pluto on 14th July 2015. That flyby returned our first close-up images of a Kuiper Belt Object, including magnificent views like this one:
I recently finished a long paper on determining Pluto’s size and shape as accurately as possible. Doing so is important because it might tell us about Pluto’s internal evolution, for instance whether or not it has a subsurface ocean. We are also looking for flexural features, which will tell us how rigid the crust of Pluto is, in a manner similar to the satellites Ariel or Dione. Likewise, the relaxation state of big craters will also tell us about the rigidity of the crust.
Another paper I just published has to do with the deep nitrogen-filled basin called Sputnik Planitia. I argued that its location suggests that it rolled Pluto over, and that to do so there must have been an ocean beneath the surface. Pam Engebretson came up with this nice artist’s impression of what Pluto looks like in cross-section:
Although a few papers have been written, there’s still an enormous amount of work left to do.
Here is a list of recent Pluto-related papers:
Reorientation of Sputnik Planitia implies a subsurface ocean on Pluto, F. Nimmo, D.P. Hamilton, W.B. McKinnon, P.M. Schenk, R.P. Binzel, C.J. Bierson, R.A. Beyer, J.M. Moore, S.A. Stern, H.A. Weaver, C.B. Olkin, L.A. Young, K.E. Smith, Nature , 540 94-96, 2016
New Horizons at Pluto P.M. Schenk, F. Nimmo Nature Geosci., 9, 411-412, 2016 Reprint
The geology of Pluto and Charon through the eyes of New Horizons Moore, J.M. et al., Science, 351, 1284-1293, 2016.
The Pluto system: Initial results from its exploration by New Horizons S.A. Stern et al., Science 350 292-297, 2015
Powering Triton's recent geological activity by obliquity tides: Implications for Pluto geology, F. Nimmo, J. R. Spencer, Icarus 246 2-10, 2015 Reprintfnimmo@es.ucsc.edu