NASA's New Horizons Sends Back First Ever Color Image of Pluto and Charon

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 - 11:31AM
Space
Astronomy
Space Imagery
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 - 11:31AM
NASA's New Horizons Sends Back First Ever Color Image of Pluto and Charon
After a nine-year voyage, NASA's New Horizons probe has finally reached Pluto, and sent back the first color images of the dwarf planet, as well as its large moon, Charon. Although they're little more than gold blurs in the initial photographs, NASA promises that this is only the first step in truly elucidating our solar system's most mysterious (non)planet.

"This is pure exploration; we're going to turn points of light into a planet and a system of moons before your eyes," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern in a statement.

Stern is referring to New Horizons's closest approach to Pluto on July 15, which will allow the probe to take photos of the dwarf planet in unprecedented detail. New Horizons's suite of seven instruments will also make various scientific observations during its visit to our former ninth planet, such as the surface composition, the temperature, the atmosphere, and the smaller orbiting satellites.

"Scientific literature is filled with papers on the characteristics of Pluto and its moons from ground based and Earth orbiting space observations, but we've never studied Pluto up close and personal," said NASA's John Grunsfeld. "In an unprecedented flyby this July, our knowledge of what the Pluto system is really like will expand exponentially and I have no doubt there will be exciting discoveries."

Because the flyby is relatively brief, and will occur during a singular window of opportunity, New Horizons will cram 100 times as much data as it can possibly send back during the event. It will then send the data back in increments, so we'll still be receiving data from this mission 16 months after the flyby.

"New Horizons is flying to Pluto – the biggest, brightest and most complex of the dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt," said Stern. "This 21st century encounter is going to be an exploration bonanza unparalleled in anticipation since the storied missions of Voyager in the 1980s."
Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy
Space Imagery

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