MELBOURNE, FLA. — As the New Horizons spacecraft prepares to fly by Pluto on July 14 after a nine-year trip, Florida Institute of Technology – the renowned research university founded at the dawn of the space race to educate early space workers – is offering faculty experts to explain the significance of this journey and why it is far from over.
Daniel Batcheldor, professor, head, Department of Physics and Space Sciences:
- Areas of expertise: Supermassive black holes, galaxy evolution, space-based observations, astronomy, extreme contrast ratio imaging. He was part of the team that in 2013, using Florida Tech’s Ortega telescope, found evidence of an atmosphere above Pluto that, like Earth’s, consists mostly of nitrogen.
- Batcheldor can speak about: Why the Pluto photos and data provided by New Horizons are important, and whether earlier observations about its atmosphere are confirmed.
- Quotable: “Pluto is in an unusual position right now: It’s very close to the sun, which means it’s a little bit warmer than normal and may have a thin atmosphere. As the spacecraft goes by on July 14, we should be able to confirm that. It’s quite a unique time in history for us to put out this New Horizons mission.”
Darin Ragozzine, assistant professor, Department of Physics and Space Sciences:
- Areas of expertise: Planetary science, exoplanets, Kuiper belt objects, orbital dynamics, transiting planet light curves, astrobiology. He is part of the team involved in guiding New Horizons to its next destination, deeper into the Kuiper Belt.
- Ragozzine can speak about: Why the Pluto photos and data provided by New Horizons are important, and how New Horizons next destination though the remote and icy Kuiper Belt may help us better understand our solar system and how it was formed.
- Quotable: “After New Horizons flies by Pluto, we expect the spacecraft will be sent for additional exploration of the outer regions of the solar system, known as the Kuiper Belt. There are many objects out there – big balls of ice – and we know as little about them as we do about Pluto. We are very excited to fly by another object in the spacecraft’s trajectory.”
To arrange an interview with Batcheldor or Ragozzine, please contact University News Bureau Chief Adam Lowenstein at 321-674-8964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.