Veronica Bray
Veronica Bray

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made the first close-up observations of Pluto and its moons. The new data from that mission show that Pluto’s change in status from a planet to a minor planet was not really a demotion, because planetary scientists now consider it to be the “King of the Kuiper Belt.” The Kuiper Belt is the region of the outer solar system where thousands of icy bodies left over from the formation of the solar system still orbit the Sun.

The royal title was given to Pluto by Veronica Bray, a planetary scientist who will describe and explain what New Horizons discovered about Pluto and its moons at a 3:30 p.m. lecture at The Arizona Senior Academy on Thursday (Oct. 8).

The data returned so far reveal that Pluto’s surface is remarkably diverse, with many different types of landforms, widely varying ages of its surface materials, and broad ranges of brightness and color. The spacecraft will continue to send back more detailed, stored data on Pluto and its moons for many months to come.

Bray is a member of the New Horizon’s science team and an Associate Staff Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. She received her PhD from Imperial College, London.

In addition to her studies of Pluto, she works with data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, is a targeting specialist for the HIRISE camera at Mars, and is an adjunct lecturer on astrobiology and an expert on impact cratering.

Written by Marcia Neugebauer, Academy Village Volunteer

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Pluto’s New Role: ‘King of the Kuiper Belt’: October 2015
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