|Photo: Hubble Space Telescope|
New Horizons will give us a much better view of what this truly distant world looks like, which will be much appreciated given this photo is as good as it gets right now. In addition, we'll see Pluto's five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos. At minimum, Charon is sure to be interesting given its size. However, I'm expecting the other moons to be boring irregular rocks. But you never know. Space missions have a way of surprising us. Who thought tiny Enceladus would end up being so amazing?
After the Pluto fly-by, New Horizons may survey other large Kuiper Belt objects. I'm not sure what's on the docket, but it's exciting that we could end up with some wonderful surprises in terms of what this mission delivers. In terms of deliverables... It will seem very petty and vindictive, but I hope this mission proves that Eris - another ice-dwarf - is actually larger than Pluto. That would hopefully, and permanently, silence the tiresome chorus of people who for some reason have their panties in a knot over Pluto no longer being a planet. While I'm certainly not in complete love with the IAU's definition of a planet, planethood is a bit like Justice Potter Stewart's oft-paraphrased definition of porn: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. Pluto isn't a planet, and we'll just have to wait for more data and thinking to clearly explain why.
|Comparison of sizes: Earth, Pluto/Charon, and the Moon|