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There's a lot of interesting stuff coming from New Horizons about Pluto, but are we actually gaining any non-trivial scientific understanding from it, or is it all just "oh neat, Pluto has mountains and such-and-such in its atmosphere"?

i.e. are we learning anything from Pluto which has relevance beyond Pluto itself?

EDIT: I'm not questioning the value of the work, I'm just wondering if we've discovered any new science already. Apologies if the tone seemed off-putting.

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  • $\begingroup$ Considering it will take a year for the data from NH to even be completely downloaded to NASA HQ this question is rather premature. Though, even if we had all such data, this question is probably too broad to be usefully answered here. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jul 29 '15 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. For a start, Pluto and Charon apparently have internal sources of heating. For the moons of the outer Solar system their internal heat source was assumed to be tidal heating, but this can't be the case here. Depending on what's causing it, it might mean that the outer moons' internal heat is not just tidal heating after all. (Disclaimer: I'm no expert and this is all heresay from the popular press.) $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Jul 29 '15 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ "I believe there's something to be said for exploring beautiful places — it's good for the spirit.” $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Jul 29 '15 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to a put a word in for the notion that the "mere [] facts" that you're so blasé about are more appropriately known as "data", and are kinda important in the scientific process. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jul 29 '15 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ Learning more about planetary physics is likely to have applications to geophysics. $\endgroup$ – paisanco Jul 29 '15 at 3:47

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