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Pluto is Much Colder Than Expected 298

Posted by samzenpus
from the stuff-is-moving-but-barely dept.
IZ Reloaded writes "Any would be travellers to Pluto should bring extra winter gear. The new temperature on Pluto according to scientists is 43 degrees Kelvin. That's 10 degrees Kelvin colder than expected. From CNN: "Astronomers think Pluto's colder than expected temperature reading involves interactions between nitrogen ice on the planet's surface and the nitrogen gas that makes up its atmosphere...Pluto is a dynamic example of what we might call an anti-greenhouse effect...""
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Pluto is Much Colder Than Expected

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  • hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by autopr0n (534291)
    While scientificaly intresting, I don't think 10k really makes much of a diffrence for humans at that temprature.
    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sparr0 (451780)
      You would be surprised. I think it means ~33% more insulation required on any device that needs to stay heated to operate there.
      • Re:hmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @01:04AM (#14398359)
        I don't understand why it would require so much more insulation. Isn't heat transfer proportional to the difference in temperature of each side? So if you wanted to maintain your equipment at 0c, that's 273K-43K = 230 vs 273K-53K= 220. The heat transfer of the material is a constant, so 230/220 = 1.045, so about 4.5% thicker insulation.
        • Re:hmm (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          If the heat flow is radiation dominated, as is often the case when a system is vacuum isolated to minimize thermal conduction, it'll go like T^4 due to the Stefan-Boltzmann law.
      • What devices would need to stay heated?

        Afaik, electronics wouldn't - they'd just run faster in the cold.

        And I'm willing to bet that by the time we're ready to send people to pluto, we'll laugh at a toasty 43k.
        • What devices would need to stay heated?

          Afaik, electronics wouldn't - they'd just run faster in the cold.

          My cellphone and the remote control for my car would like to have a word with you about that, but they haven't really been themselves since they spent the night with me in a tiny emergency snow cave.
          • Perhaps that's due to a problem with the battery, or something...

            My point is that we're perfectly capable of making electronics that run quite well in the sub-freezing cold.
            • Only if there's something externally providing power. Batteries (which spacecraft usually need) really dislike extreme cold.
        • Re:hmm (Score:4, Informative)

          by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @02:00AM (#14398540)
          Batteries don't tend to work very well at all at 43K. Since batteries are chemical devices the chemical reactions happen MUCH slower (if at all) at such a low temperature.

          I don't know the effects of cold on normal solid state electronics, but I wouldn't have a problem believing that some components aren't going to work normally at 43K. It's not as if the parts manufacturer tests them at these extreme temperatures.
          • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rocket jockey (938020)
            That is just one of the reasons you don't use batteries far from the sun. RTG's generate a constant source of heat and electricity for years due to radioactice decay. You could up the anti with a full scale nuclear reactor but nasa would be hard pressed to sneak that out of the gravity well. The only other option is to beam energy there but that is a problem becuase it's hard the amim the attena. Nuclear power is really the only way to go for deep space travle.
            • Re:hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @02:32AM (#14398641)
              Well, from what I know the reason that RTG generators are used is because of the extremely low light levels so far from the sun, not cold. The Mars rovers for instance use solar panels with batteries and heaters. I'd bet batteries+solar panel+heaters is a LOT cheaper than an RTG.

              But you're right, on a mission to pluto they'd have to use an RTG for power, so chemical batteries wouldn't be needed. I hadn't thought of the low light levels. But, the original point is that a heat source is important because electronics don't work the same at such extremely low temperatures.
              • The Mars rovers use multiple radioactive sources for heating.

                Second, a heat source is needed to provide power for computations not heat. Electronics in general *works better* at low temperatures.

            • by m50d (797211)
              You could up the anti

              Become more opposed?

        • Re:hmm (Score:2, Informative)

          by utnow (808790)
          cooler temperatures will only improve performance in solid state electronics for so long... at some point they will actually begin to malfunction as a result of the extreme cold.

          http://www.octools.com/ramil/newscientist/faster.h tm [octools.com]

          a segment from the bottom...

          everything had frozen solid and the thermometer registered -150 C. Success. Then the monitor started to flash strange images. Pressing keys on the keyboard produced random characters on the screen. "In other words," Tranquilino says, "the motherboard wa
        • Try running your computer (monitor and everything) at 10 K degrees, see how fast it runs ;)
      • No it doesn't. If the device is intended to operate at 43 K, then the temperature is perfect and no insulation is needed.
    • > ...I don't think 10k really makes much of a diffrence for humans...

      It would if it was Uranus.

    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Belseth (835595)
      It's interesting because it's an effect they haven't seen before. An atmosphere actually helping to cool a planet is something new and pretty amazing. It seems to act like a giant evaporative cooler. The more that's understood about the physics of known planets the more accurate the information will be that can be gleaned from distant planets. Ten degrees may not seem like much but it's an important piece of the overall puzzle. It also means that Pluto is a lot more active and more interesting than people h
    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Funny)

      by jdbartlett (941012)
      I just love the headline. Tourists dissappointed. Pluto falls short of vacationer's expectations.

      Man on Pluto: "It's cold."

      "It's not what we expected," said Mrs. White, mother of four, "We thought it'd be much milder than this. We haven't been able to go out all holiday and the kids have been bored. It was either this or Disney and the kids were all excited to get to see Pluto. We didn't think it'd be like this."

      Mr. White says he intends to pursue compensation from NASA and other astronomic research orga
      • Re:hmm (Score:2, Funny)

        by Monsieur_F (531564)
        I think we need more information about this family here : is Mr White Mrs White's husband ? Why is he only the father of three while his wife is mother of four ? Perhaps Mrs White had one child from someone else, for instance in a previous marriage ?

        I am all confused about all this. Please give us details !
      • "It was either this or Disney and the kids were all excited to get to see Pluto."

        Well, that's her own fault, if she can't tell the difference between Pluto the planet and Pluto the floppy-eared brown dog.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:41AM (#14398263) Homepage Journal
    First time they used an oral thermometer, the second time a rectal one.
  • by _PimpDaddy7_ (415866) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:42AM (#14398269)
    The new temperature on Pluto according to scientists is 43 degrees Kelvin.

    That's nothing, my ex girlfriend easily was the coldest object in our solar system. She had to be way colder than that.

  • Not degrees (Score:5, Informative)

    by whmac33 (524094) <whmac33@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:43AM (#14398270)
    Could I be the first to point out that it's just 10 Kelvin? no degrees here
    • Re:Not degrees (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pranay (724362)
      For a change, the journalists got their science right. from the article:
      43 Kelvin (-382 degrees Fahrenheit) instead of the expected 53 Kelvin (-364 degrees Fahrenheit)
      But then, a fellow slashdotter uses degrees Kelvin and no eyebrows are raised.
    • Re:Not degrees (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      To be even more pedantic than you, the difference of 10 degrees is actually correct (if they didn't write the Kelvin) because a difference of 10 Kelvin is identically a difference of 10 Degrees Centigrade.
    • Re:Not degrees (Score:2, Informative)

      by Guppy06 (410832)
      Actually, it's 10 kelvin. You capitalize the abbreviation K, but SI unit names are lower-case.
    • by Flying pig (925874) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:49AM (#14398819)
      Lord Kelvin has a son who inherits the title. He goes to Cambridge and takes his first degree in Natural Sciences and gets a First, while still managing to play Rugby. Then he goes to Oxford to do his BSc, and then goes back to Cambridge where he does a brilliant PhD while turning out part time for the England cricket team. At which point he has a nervous breakdown from all the work. As part of his recovery program he is found a nice quiet job working as a bus conductor (NB only older UK residents will understand this.)
      One day two Girton girls are on his bus and one remarks his age and physique, turns to the other and murmurs "Super conductor". To which the other replies "Three degrees Kelvin."

      As a result of the parent post, this joke is now officially demolished.

      • by Ed Avis (5917)
        A few choice quotations from Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society:
        Radio has no future.
        Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
        X-rays will prove to be a hoax.
        Apparently these were in 1899. They're all over the net and in print (eg the book Return of Heroic Failures) but I can't find a definitive source in context.
  • .. scientists are working on developing a new, heavier polluting, SUV to reverse the anti-greenhouse effect on Pluto.
  • by creimer (824291)
    Does this mean that Hell froze over on Pluto?
  • For the lazy (Score:5, Informative)

    by krunoce (906444) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:46AM (#14398284)
    43 kelvin

    = -382.27 degrees Fahrenheit
    = -230.15 degrees Celsius

    = really fucking cold outside.

  • by hyc (241590) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:46AM (#14398286) Homepage Journal
    it's just the sort of place you'd need to run a few Pentium Extreme Edition systems.

    But seriously, while researchers try to find exotic materials that exhibit room-temperature superconductivity, you could take more common materials and run them at insanely fast speeds out there. Of course, it would take a while to upload your code and data and download any processing results.......

    Maybe the dark side of Mercury would be more feasible.
    • Re:In other words (Score:2, Informative)

      by Celarnor (835542)
      Well, at least there's a research group out there working on it. http://www.ipnsig.org/ [ipnsig.org]
    • Re:In other words (Score:5, Informative)

      by techno-vampire (666512) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @01:09AM (#14398378) Homepage
      Maybe the dark side of Mercury would be more feasible.

      What "dark side of Mercury?" It's been known for over twenty years that Mercury rotates in 2/3 of the time it takes to orbit the sun rather than having its day equal to its year. It's just that the best times to observe the planet by telescope come about 2/3 or 4/3 of an orbit apart. (Not sure which one, but in either case, the same side was always lit when we could observe it. It took doppler radar to find out what was really going on.)

      • Specifically, Mercury's day is 58.65 earth days long, while its year is 87.97 earth days long (source: NASA JPL [nasa.gov]).

        From the same source, we see that Mercury's minimum temperature is about 100K (comfortably colder than liquid nitrogen). Obviously that would occur on the currently-dark side of the planet. So while there's no permanently-dark side of Mercury, there's certainly a cold dark part of mercury somewhere at any given point in time, and that coldest part is only about 50K away from Pluto's temp (presu
    • Actually, not true.

      Very little atmosphere
      + massive heat dissipation
      + small die surface area
      = Quick overheating
    • by Somatic (888514) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @02:26AM (#14398621) Journal
      > it's just the sort of place you'd need to run a few Pentium Extreme Edition systems.

      Microsoft has already launched a probe to harness the power of Pluto to cool the Xbox 360.

      The White House, misreading the term "global warming", immediately denied that Pluto exists. After reading the article they retracted the statement and issued another, stating that they will investigate Pluto's "anti-warmification properties".

      An investigation has been opened into just who Kelvin is, and why he's allowed to practice science without a degree.

    • On the other hand the thin nitrogen atmosphere on low gravity Pluto might cause each pin of the cpu to sprout multiple immense tornadoes in all directions, whirling across the entire hemisphere in an attempt to extract the heat which will in fact warm up the entire planet and possibly volatilize what you are standing on. On the other hand if you can bury the heat sink in solid ground you may be okay..
  • weird science (Score:4, Interesting)

    by loserhead (941655) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:49AM (#14398295)
    so it says that Charon, Pluto's moon, is warmer than the planet. Since Charon is almost as big as Pluto, I am sure this new tidbit will add more to the deabte concerning what relation the two celestial bodies have with each other and how they came to be paired.
  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by millennial (830897) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:49AM (#14398297) Journal
    Is 10K really all that significant? When you get down that low, you'd better be damn sure that your equipment is resistant to much lower temperatures anyway. Imagine Pluto with a wind chill...
  • by Dzimas (547818) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @12:51AM (#14398308)
    The correct use is "43 kelvins." Unlike degrees Celsius or degrees Fahrenheit (both adjectives), it is a noun, and the correct pluralization is kelvins.

    I'm sure some newspaper will soon start running headlines about how Pluto is "23% colder than anticipated." In the real world, 10 K isn't that much, although it would be nice to know why our estimates are off. For reference, water freezes at 273.15 K, and the deepest darkest nook of outer space registers about 2.7 K, thanks to some background microwave radiation.

    • I hearby award you the pedantic nerd award of the day. Thanks for clearing up all the confusion that we all had with kelvin vs kelvins.

      I think you've missed the point of the article. How it's "sensationalist" I can't understand at all. The point of the article was that astronomers have found something interesting. A planet that cools itself via "perspiration". Pretty neat if you ask me.
      • I was referring to the root post as sensational, not the article. "Much Colder..." and "degrees Kelvin" demonstrate a lack of grounding. TFA was actually pretty interesting (especially considering the source), but it describes a moderate effect akin to an "open system" air conditioner.

        Of most importance: "The finding could apply to other planets in the solar system which have condensable atmospheres like Mars." IOW, it's another little piece in our understanding of the overall solar jigsaw puzzle.


        • I was referring to the root post as sensational, not the article.

          I just re-read the article summary and I still don't see how anyone could think it's sensational. Much colder is a matter of perspective. It's colder than experimental error and what theory (based on reflectivity and light levels) can account for. That's enough to warrant some serious interest. Hell, when they first discovered high-temperature superconductors it was at 77K. It's all a matter of perspective and context. No one but a solid
    • 10 kelvin "isn't that much?" It's the difference between wearing jeans and a jacked or shorts and a t-shirt. It's a difference of 18 degrees Farenheit/Rankine.
    • I'm sure some newspaper will soon start running headlines about how Pluto is "23% colder than anticipated."

      That's something to applaud. Sure, it might not be that different - 23% colder than "really fucking cold" is also "really fucking cold" - but it would be accurate.

    • Are you kidding? 10K isn't a lot at Earth temperatures. But it's a lot when you're that close to absolute zero. That "23%" (should be less somewhat less than 20%) is the way to think about it. It's analogous to the difference between 0 C and roughly -50 C. Namely, you need a substantial effect or error to be off by that much in temperature.
  • At last, we finally know how we can counter global warming!
  • Hmmmm.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by gordgekko (574109) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @01:01AM (#14398346) Homepage
    > Pluto is a dynamic example of what we might call an anti-greenhouse effect...

    So does that mean scientists will continue to change what we can expect from Pluto? One decade they say it will get warmer, the next decade cooler?
  • BAH! (Score:4, Funny)

    by dteichman2 (841599) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @01:04AM (#14398356) Homepage
    My P4 would fix that in about 10 mins.
  • by Dausha (546002) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @01:30AM (#14398444) Homepage
    It's not so much the cold as it is the humidity.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Heinlein's classic Have Space Suit, will Travel (which I will now call HSSWT) is one of Heinlein's last jouvenille novels to have its science become dated. The other novels had such quaint things as canals and martians on Mars, or a 200 where people had the ability to make synthetic gold, yet people still had to talk to a live bank teller to withdrawl money. HSSWT, until reasonably recently, had no such quaintness to it. However, (minor spoilers follow) there is a scene in the book where the hero has to
  • Wait... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    so we're back to calling Pluto a planet [slashdot.org] again?
  • Now it will be so much easier to make a cold fusion [nuklearpower.com] reactor [nuklearpower.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    anti-greenhouse effect? Shouldn't that be called the whitehouse effect :)
    • More catchphrases:

        - the redhouse effect (red is complementary to green)
        - the burnthouse effect (frost will "burn" plants in a greenhouse)
        - the evergreenhouse effect (it is so cold that the plants are actually frozen green forever)
        - the exgirlfriend effect (it's cold, and will never get warm; shameless plagiarizing another comment)

      Ok, I suck.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:25AM (#14398768)
    I mean, you'd be emotionally distant too if your master was never home, always away lobbying congress for copyright extensions.
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by squoozer (730327) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:35AM (#14398790)

    I didn't really have Pluto on my "must visit" list anyway but with that announcement it's certainly never going to be on it.

    Damn the Plutorians and their cold world.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @04:38AM (#14398802)
    Good thing I saw as I was leaving on my vacation to Pluto; I hadn't packed any winter clothing. Thanks Slashdot!
  • Now you will be able to get those super-high frame rates you always wanted.

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