NASA Pluto And Google Pluto: Secrets No More

google pluto nasa pluto
Written by Richard Hay

Our science editor Richard Hay is thrilled to share the latest, high-res images from NASA of Pluto and its moon, Charon. He’s also thrilled to discuss Google Pluto, a stealth project he is only now allowed to talk about. It’s a tale of two Plutos. Nice.

aNewDomainpluto photos nasa gallery — As a Google test engineer, I have a special place in my heart reserved for Pluto. And what a great week it’s been for me, Pluto-wise. The New Horizons craft this week delivered the highest-resolution, most color rich images yet of Pluto and of Charon, Pluto’s big moon. Scroll below the fold to scrutinize those beautiful images, courtesy of NASA.

But that’s not the only Pluto I’m celebrating. I’m talking, of course, of Google Pluto. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so.

Google Pluto is a longterm stealth project that just came to light in London at the Open Network Summit a few weeks ago. I’m the lead test engineer of this manufacturing switch project, but I never was allowed to talk about it. Now that Google’s Amin Vahdat spilled the beans at London’s Open Network Summit, though, I’m free to discuss the wealth of details shared in the SigComm 2016  paper that Vahdat presented there.

The paper, titled “Jupiter Rising: A Decade of Clos Topologies and Centralized Control in Google’s Datacenter Network,” also talked about other Google projects, like Firehouse, Watchtower, Saturn and Jupiter. Here’s an excerpt from page 189 of that paper.

“These chassis are coupled with new Pluto single-chip ToR switches; see Figure 12. In the default configuration, Pluto supports 20 servers with 4x10G provisioned to the cluster fabric for an average bandwidth of 2 Gbps for each server. For more bandwidth-hungry servers, we could configure the Pluto ToR with 8x10G uplinks and 16x10G to servers providing 5 Gbps to each server. Importantly, servers could burst at 10Gbps across the fabric for the first time.”

So that is the Pluto for which I was lead test engineer.  Naturally, it’s like a baby to me that I watched grow up. And now I watch it depart into the world to meet whatever riches the universe has in store for it.

So now you know. I have a love for Pluto on an entirely different level. And it is my secret no more.

Now, after NASA’s release of the best-ever images of Pluto’s moon Charon last Thursday, it’s no longer a secret, either. As you can see from the gorgeous image New Horizons delivered us below, its violent, stormy history is evident. And those moon-sized valleys? They’re a solar system secret no more. Check it out.

google pluto nasa pluto a secret no more


And then there were those stunning new images of Pluto. After I saw the one, below, of Pluto and Chiron doing their thing, I immediately headed to Etsy to order custom pins for my Stanford Band hat. It’s time to celebrate, you see. For me, Pluto the (dwarf) planet and Google Pluto (the project I’ve worked on for so long) are having a double coming out party.

Why wouldn’t I celebrate?

google pluto nasa pluto

A little background for you: Pluto was “discovered” by American Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 while working at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.  P

erhaps it is for this reason Americans are so attached to Pluto and were so dismayed when it was reclassified as a dwarf planet from full status as a planet planet. My personal theory on this is it was easier to chop planet 9 from the solar system rotating mobiles than to add a 10th planet called Eres. Chop, chop.

Check out the following flyover image NASA shared on September 11, 2015, not even a month ago. The images were downloaded from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, of course. Long Range Reconnaisance Imager (LORRI) images comprise this animation. The video starts with a low-altitude view of Pluto’s Norgay Montes. It then flies north over the so-called Sputnik Planum and Cthulhu Regio regions. Then it turns and drifts eastward. As you watch, note your perspective as an on-board observe starts low and then keeps rising. By the end it’s about 10 times higher than where the animation started you, says Nasa, and that view reveals about 80 percent of the hemisphere in question.
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI, Stuart Robbins

How did this cool-looking former planet get demoted, you wonder? How soon we forget. Just don’t blame Neil deGrasse Tyson. In this  video, he insists he is not to blame. Though he does admit he was an accessory to the crime. If you’re mad, he suggests you contact the man who he says is the real Pluto-as-planet killer. That’s Mark Brown at CalTech. On Twitter, he is @PlutoKiller. Just sayin’.

Details like this really make me like Tyson. And then I watched his back and forth with Stepehn Colbert, below. Now I’m a fan.

Now I myself share the affinity for Pluto.  I am an American.  Pluto takes roughly 248 years to orbit the sun one time.  So Pluto was discovered, elevated to planetary status in countless textbooks, celebrated, discovered to be 27% smaller than another thingee (Eris), by the rule of science (and electricity) to take the path of least resistance demoted to dwarf planet by the IAU (International Astronomical Union), and now has been closely observed by a high tech camera probe in a bit more than 1/3 of a Plutarian year.

And remember the new pins I bought from Etsy for my Stanford Band hat? There they are below.

If you ever want to join the Stanford Band, by the way, I’ll add that you’re welcome to, our rehearsals are on Mondays at 7 p.m. at the band shak, and it sure helps if you know how to play something.



Back to those beautiful, high-res Pluto and Charon images NASA shared on October 1, 2015.


And look here.


To Pluto!

Both of them.

For aNewDomain, I’m Richard Hay.