New Horizons Pluto Flyby -- Resources

Dear Science Colleagues:

Are you as excited as me to see all of the great photos and videos of the historic Pluto flyby? What questions are your students asking about it? What resources are you finding so far that are useful in teaching your students about this historical event?

Here are a few I like:

Follow #PlutoFlyby on Twitter for the latest articles, images and video

 New Horizons Probe’s July 14 Pluto Flyby, Complete Coverage,

New Horizons’ Pluto Flyby, The New York Times

-- has an interactive slide show that demonstrates New Horizons’ approach and what it accomplished

Spacecraft Makes History, Travels 3 Billion Miles to Pluto, CNN

Science NetLinks: Is Pluto A Planet?

Pluto in a Minute: How Did New Horizons Phone Home?, NASA

I look forward to hearing from you,

Jackie Taylor, Moderator

Science Community of Practice

On Twitter: @jataylor10


Hi again!

Here are some great questions and comments on the Pluto flyby from Susan Cowles (who posted at the exact same time as me but in the Science Lessons group! Image removed.) ... please read on!

Jackie Taylor

From Susan:

Greetings, everyone!

In my experience, it is wonderful when a scientific expedition is featured in the daily news. This provides rich starting points for skill development in adult education programs, as well as for learning about specific science topics.  Instructors are given the opportunity to include investigations using skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, research, and numeracy. 

Such is the case of the exciting Pluto Flyby!!!  The Pluto Flyby is a NASA project, so we can count on many educational resources being available. Such is the case here:  Look for charts, graphs, data sets, and incredible photos.

Along with all the opportunities to investigate topics in astronomy and math by looking at data from the New Horizons spacecraft, there are other ways in which to blend skill development in instruction.  Here are a few of the things that come to mind:

Where do the names “Pluto” and “Charon” (Pluto’s moon) come from?  How about the informal names that scientists are giving to features on Pluto that are being seen for the first time? (According to the New York Times, these include entities from culturally diverse myths and literature: Cthulhu, Meng-Po, Balrog, Vucub Came, and Hun Came.) What do these entities have in common?

The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006.  Students could make a timeline of events between 2006 and 2015.  These could be national, international, and personal events.  A rich discussion could follow as these timelines are compared.

The New Horizon is described as being “the size of a baby grand piano”.  What are some other ways to describe the size of the spacecraft?

I’ve read that the spacecraft has flown 3 billion miles so far.  How does that number compare to the number of people on Earth?  Actually, astronomers use the AU, or astronomical unit, to measure distances in space.  How big is an AU?

And my personal favorite for a writing topic would be to read and respond to this comment by Deborah Bowman, the New Horizons mission operations manager.    During a news conference, she said:  “We always talk about the spacecraft as being a child, maybe a teenager.  There was absolutely nothing anybody on the operations team could do, just to trust that we had prepared it well to set off on its journey on its own”. 

Please contribute other things you think about in using the Pluto Flyby as a topic for explorations and skill development!

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