Over the past 50 years, robotic probes have visited every terrestrial planet, the largest asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and now Pluto – one of several dwarf planets, or “Plutoids” that inhabit the Kuiper Belt of icy objects. For New Horizons, this has been a 9 year 3 billion mile journey. Next for the grand-piano-size spacecraft are other objects in the Kuiper Belt and beyond.
Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein are usually counted as the Big Three of science fiction, amongst the most influential writers in the field. They all were early protégés of the legendary John Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction and were the faces of the Golden Age of Science Fiction when technology was supreme and it was clear that we were headed to the stars.
Amateur telescopes can reveal thousands of other galaxies in those sections of the sky that are sufficiently far from the Milky Way’s congested disk. The digital images of elliptical, spiral, irregular, and interacting galaxies that these “citizen scientists” can now obtain surpass the best images obtained professionally just 25 years ago.