Free Lectures on Exploring Pluto

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November 11, 2005

Two free public programs in Pasadena will offer an overview of the upcoming NASA mission to Pluto. Pluto is the only planet in our solar system not yet studied by a robotic explorer, but not for long.

Dr. Bonnie Buratti, a New Horizons science team co-investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will talk about the mission on Thursday evening, Nov. 17, at JPL and on Friday evening, Nov. 18, at Pasadena City College.

Now at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the spacecraft is scheduled for launch on Jan. 11, 2006. JPL will provide the communications coverage for the mission via NASA's Deep Space Network.

Buratti's major interest is in whether there has been geologic activity on Pluto in the recent past and whether Pluto has seasons. She is also interested in the surface composition and texture of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Objects, millions of asteroid-like bodies from outside the orbit of Pluto, which scientists hope to observe.

A native of Pennsylvania, she holds a bachelor's degree in earth and planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., and a Ph.D. in astronomy and space sciences from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. She is currently a science team member on the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn.

NASA's New Horizons mission will be the first to visit Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. The compact spacecraft carries seven science instruments for examining the geology, composition, surface, temperature and atmospheric structure of the planet and its main moon. The science team is studying whether New Horizons will be able to obtain data on the two recently discovered smaller moons of Pluto. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., manages the mission and will operate the spacecraft for NASA.

Both lectures will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. The Thursday lecture will be in JPL's von Karman Auditorium. JPL is at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112.

Thursday's lecture will be webcast live at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/nov05.cfm .

Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382/JPL

2005-163



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