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Shoshone News Press – Local news, what about Pluto?

"Space: the final frontier."

Words that were as true now as they were when William Shatner uttered them for the first time in 1966 for the first episode of "Star Trek" on television.

Since then, modern technology has advanced at an accelerated pace through the efforts of many intelligent minds who want to see more of this final frontier.

One of these minds in particular is the principal researcher at Stanford University in electrical engineering and co-investigator of the New Horizons Mission, Ivan Linscott.

Willing to speak at the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum in Wallace on April 11 at 6 pm, Linscott will be giving attendees stories of their adventure to learn more about the former ninth planet – Pluto.

The presentation will focus on the NASA New Horizons spacecraft project that literally took off in 2006 and provided researchers with a wealth of new information about the dwarf planet nine years later.

The role of Linscott with New Horizons was in the development of the Radio Science Experiment Program (REX), a device installed in the spacecraft that can receive information in the form of electromagnetic waves (radio waves).

"What we do is illuminate the surface of an object, such as Mars or Pluto in this case, with radio signals that are transmitted from Earth, are reflected from the surface (or the lower surface) and then bounce back to an orbiter … or spacecraft passing by, "explained Linscott.

Once the spacecraft (REX in particular) receives these waves, the information is decoded and then sent to Earth for analysis.

A similar (but much less) complex), the technique called sonar is commonly used here on earth, where sound waves are emitted and then measured after bouncing on an object and returning. These readings can be used for a variety of purposes, such as locating submarines or underwater oil deposits. The information collected by REX with the use of strong electromagnetic waves taken from Earth provides much more data than sound waves, however.

"You can get information about the nature of the surface, its texture, its composition, its subsurface," said Linscott.

"We transmit these extremely powerful signals, arrive at the spacecraft, deviate and are strong enough to see."

Do not spoil the presentation on Wednesday, but New Horizons sent its data on July 13, 2015, a new light has been spilled on Pluto, one that shows that it is not just a rock full of craters as many astronomers have believed.

A giant heart-shaped nitrogen glacier, rippled methane mountains, a water ice core and new moons are just some of the many new discoveries that were discovered as a result of the New Horizons mission. Linscott believes that Pluto had a difficult deal when it was declassified from planet to dwarf planet in 2006. With these new findings, he is sure that Pluto has given itself an identity and gained enough character to be in the league of other recognized planets. (even if a reclassification is highly unlikely).

As with human nature, much of the excitement surrounding New Horizons & Pluto's flyby focuses on the photos sent by the multispectral camera called & # 39; Ralph & # 39; These images gave humanity its first real look at Pluto and its physical characteristics.

Although not as "exciting", the Linscott data that he and his team received from REX are certainly no less important.

"Many of these situations (ie, the nitrogen glacier and the methane mountains) on Pluto are the only place in the solar system where they have been found," he said.

Long before the project was illuminated by NASA in 2000, Linscott had been working in the field of electromagnetics with other researchers. According to Stanford magazine, REX was initially developed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University under the direction of Len Tyler, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford who was the principal investigator of the project before his retirement. This is when Linscott joined the team.

NASA wanted a project that would allow them to observe the objects of Pluto and the Kuiper belt, but it was also profitable. It so happened that REX met the requirements. With the support of the resources of Stanford University, Linscott and his team would spend six years adjusting REX and preparing it for its mission.

As to why Ivan is now a (partial) resident of Silver Valley and not down in California or the Northeast, he would have to thank his wife, Margo Linscott.

Margo, a Silver Valley native and former electron microscopist, inherited several houses in the 1990s that are located in Burke. Since then, as a kind of parallel project, the couple has been working slowly to make them habitable and restore them. Margo's family was one of the first to settle in the Burke Canyon at the beginning of the 20th century and the test is hard to miss.

According to the 1997 Spokesman Review article, "Rethinking a new claim for Burke's old houses to be restored and discovering family history," the couple's incentive to fix houses is better explained by written words on the wall panels by Margo's grandfather:

"This house was built by Frank Richardson, autumn 1905, finished in the spring of 1906. He married Dollie Ives in the spring of 1903." Another note reads: "Jan. 12, 1906. First dinner in the new house."

Ivan and Margo will be at the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum in Wallace on April 11 at 6 p.m. to talk more about the New Horizons mission and answer questions.


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