How Bright Is It on Pluto? There's a #PlutoTime Widget for That

by Alan Boyle /  / Updated 

What's It Like on Pluto?

April 29, 201500:43

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Add another online appetizer to the Pluto party: NASA's newly released "Pluto Time" widget calculates the time of day when the amount of sunlight you're getting is equivalent to the noonday glare on the dwarf planet's surface. Spoiler alert: It's not that much.

The Web-based widget is one of several online offerings that are being served up in advance of the New Horizons spacecraft's Pluto flyby on July 14.

Just how dim is the sunlight on Pluto, 3 billion miles away? This artist's concept of the frosty surface of Pluto with Charon and our sun as backdrops illustrates that while sunlight is much weaker than it is here on Earth, it isn't as dark as you might expect. You could read a book on the surface of Pluto at noon.
Just how dim is the sunlight on Pluto, 3 billion miles away? This artist's concept of the frosty surface of Pluto with Charon and our sun as backdrops illustrates that while sunlight is much weaker than it is here on Earth, it isn't as dark as you might expect. You could read a book on the surface of Pluto at noon.Alex Parker / NASA / SwRI

Related: Pluto's Moons Raise New Puzzles

The Pluto Time website lets you plug in your coordinates and gives you the "Pluto Time" for your locale. Pluto is more than 30 times farther away from the sun than Earth is (3 billion miles vs. 93 million miles). That means Pluto gets as much sunlight at noon as Earthlings get on a clear day around dusk or dawn. For example, Friday evening's Pluto Time in Seattle doesn't come until 9:08 p.m.

Pluto Time isn't just a widget and a time of day; it's also a social media campaign. NASA is encouraging users to go out and take selfies at the appointed time to share with the hashtag #PlutoTime.

"We'll highlight some of the most interesting shots from around the world and combine your photos into a mosaic image of Pluto and its moons to be unveiled in August," NASA says. Pictures already are popping up in the Pluto Time photostream on Flickr.

What's It Like on Pluto?

April 29, 201500:43

The Pluto apps previously laid out on the online buffet include:

  • "New Horizons: A NASA Voyage to Pluto" for Apple devices, which provides updates, tweets, images, videos and background info about the $728 million NASA mission, plus a countdown clock and a spacecraft locator.
  • "Pluto Safari" for Apple and Android devices, which has the countdown timer, a spacecraft spotter, a Pluto sky-finder, a 3-D multimedia guide, news updates and other goodies — including a "Planet or Not" poll.
  • "New Horizons to Pluto" for Android devices, which offers videos, photos and vintage fiction about Pluto.

To keep track of the New Horizons mission on the Web, check in with the mission team's pluto.jhuapl.edu website as well as NASA.gov's mission portal page.

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