NASA has released a new video of the space environment at Pluto based on updated models and larger data sets collected by the space agency.
The latest video is yet another visualization of the space environment at Pluto at it may have been experienced by New Horizons spacecraft as it approached and zoomed past the dwarf planet in July. A similar video was released by NASA just days before New Horizons closest flyby of Pluto.
NASA says that its scientists started working on creating a map of the space environment at Pluto months before New Horizons was scheduled to make its closest every flyby of the icy dwarf. According to scientists involved with the simulation and visualization of the space environment, their intention was to attempt to characterize space weather conditions so far from our own home so as to open doors to better protecting our spacecraft – and eventually humans — as we continue to explore the solar system and beyond.
Community Coordinated Modeling Center, or CCMC, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, sought input from space weather scientists around the nation. Characterization of space weather at a particular location requires understanding of the environment at the location and something that is far different from the one we experience in our day-to-day lives on Earth.
There is a constant stream of particles from the sun called the solar wind that stream outward and sometimes the population of these particles increase greatly because of coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Then there are cases of various particles entering the solar system from outside our heliosphere. Once out past Jupiter, flows of hydrogen from outside our solar system can also be detected, flying upstream against the solar wind.