Northern California Science Writers Association

Pluto’s “Spinning Top” Moons and other Discoveries

  • Wednesday, December 16, 2015
  • 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
  • L'Olivier restaurant, San Francisco
  • 0


Registration is closed

Pluto’s “Spinning Top” Moons and other Discoveries

The New Horizons Flyby of Pluto: An Insider’s View

On July 14, after nearly a decade-long journey, NASA’s New Horizons probe dove into Pluto’s shadow at 30,000 mph, giving earthbound scientists a long-awaited close look at the surprisingly active dwarf planet and its wildly spinning moons. Planetary astronomer Mark Showalter, New Horizons co-investigator and discoverer of Pluto’s fifth moon, Styx, has been scrutinizing the new Pluto data and trying to fathom its wobbly, whirling, oddball moons. Showalter has described the moons as behaving like spinning tops and notes that the most distant moon, Hydra, whips around on its axis 89 times for each of its laps around Pluto.

At our annual holiday dinner on Dec. 16, held as always in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Showalter will share his “insider’s view” of the mission. A senior research scientist at the SETI Institute, Showalter will review Pluto’s startling surface features, including newly created smooth plains and possible ice volcanoes. He will focus particularly on the behavior of Pluto’s moons, some of which may be the remnants of violent collisions. Showalter’s earlier work included discovering Jupiter’s faint outer “gossamer” rings; Saturn’s tiny ring-moon, Pan; and two faint outer rings of dust encircling Uranus.

We’ll also feature a trivia contest for fabulous door prizes and camaraderie with out-of-town reporters covering AGU. Register now for our largest event of the year at a brand-new venue.

WHERE: L’Olivier, a French restaurant at 465 Davis Court (between Jackson and Washington), San Francisco (415-981-7824). The restaurant is a quick, five-block walk from the Embarcadero BART station.

WHEN: 6-7 p.m. - No-host happy hour

7-8:30 p.m. - Appetizer and dinner served

8:30-10 p.m. - Dessert served, program begins, speaker

Salad: Mixed Sonoma Greens w/vinaigrette

Entrée choices: Chicken Piccata, Sauteed Tilapia, Braised Beef or Fettucini Pasta

Dessert: Chocolat Cremeux, plus coffee and tea

Attendees must choose an entree when they register, so that we can tell L'Olivier how many of each to prepare.

COST: $30 members, plus one guest; $20 student members; $45 non-members

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