October 9, 2017 8:59 pm

Tuesday, Dr. FunkySpoon Asks, “Is Pluto the New Mars?”

It’s time to talk about everybody’s favorite dwarf planet. With a “heart” of its own stamped on its icy surface, Pluto captured all of our hearts when the New Horizons space craft did a flyby in July 2015, completing its epic nine-year journey.

Photo showing Pluto's heart, in natural color, by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

After a few years to digest all the information and data, astrobiologist and All-Stars host David Grinspoon welcomes comic co-host Chuck Nice and John Spencer, planetary scientist and New Horizons Co-Investigator to discuss what we’ve learned so far.

You’ll hear a lot about the surface of Pluto. Some parts of the surface are billions of years old while other parts are much, much younger, which came as a surprise to the investigators. John also explains what makes up Pluto’s “heart”, as well as how Pluto’s nitrogen ice is constantly going through convection cycles.

My favorite part of this episode is when John discusses his work on the New Horizons mission. You’ll learn what it was like to have nine years of build up for the New Horizons flyby and what it was like to finally see it happen. John also explains what happened when the main computer on New Horizons crashed just ten days before the flyby was going to happen.

In my opinion, the audacity of some of these long-term missions goes mostly unnoticed, and needs to be credited. This New Horizons missions began as a proposal in 2001, and finally had its pay-off in 2015. 14 years is a long time to watch something come to fruition, and I think having the ability to see that far ahead and have the confidence to carry out a mission like that is highly commendable.

You’ll also hear fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on a number of things our fans want to know about Pluto including, “Could we put people on Pluto one day?” and, “How do the ice ridges on Pluto differ from the ice ridges on Earth?”

Please join us tomorrow night for “Is Pluto the New Mars?” with Dr. FunkySpoon at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on our StarTalk All-Stars channel on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too. And remember that you can also catch next week’s StarTalk All-Stars episode one week early on TuneIn, at tunein.com/startalkallstars.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen