NASA Excited over New Pluto Photos Made by New Horizons Spacecraft

NASA Excited over New Pluto Photos Made by New Horizons Spacecraft

NASA: Pluto in the latest series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos, taken /4/8-12, 2015

The New Horizons Spacecraft is getting closer to Jupiter. NASA shared new images from the planet.

The New Horizons Spacecraft is underway to visit planet Pluto. Images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft are growing in scale as the spacecraft approaches its target. The new images, taken /4/8-12 using a powerful telescopic camera and downlinked last week, reveal more detail about Pluto’s complex and high contrast surface. 

The images were taken from just under 50 million miles (77 million kilometers) away, using the  Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons. Because New Horizons was approximately 20 million miles closer to Pluto in mid-/4/than in mid-April, the new images contain about twice as many pixels on the object as images made in mid-April.

The images New Horizons returns will dramatically improve in coming weeks as the New Horizons spacecraft gets closer to its July 14 encounter with the Pluto system, covering about 750,000 miles per day.

Lorri /4/12

A technique called image deconvolution sharpens the raw, unprocessed pictures beamed back to Earth. In the April images, New Horizons scientists determined that Pluto has broad surface markings – some bright, some dark – including a bright area at one pole that /4/be a polar cap. The newer imagery released here shows finer details. Deconvolution can occasionally produce spurious details, so the finest details in these images will need confirmation from images to be made from closer range in coming weeks.

“As New Horizons closes in on Pluto, it’s transforming from a point of light to a planetary object of intense interest,” said NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Jim Green. “We’re in for an exciting ride for the next seven weeks.” 

“These new images show us that Pluto’s differing faces are each distinct; likely hinting at what /4/be very complex surface geology or variations in surface composition from place to place,” added New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “These images also continue to support the hypothesis that Pluto has a polar cap whose extent varies with longitude; we’ll be able to make a definitive determination of the polar bright region’s iciness when we get compositional spectroscopy of that region in July.” 

“By late June the image resolution will be four times better than the images made /4/8-12, and by the time of closest approach, we expect to obtain images with more than 5,000 times the current resolution,” said Hal Weaver, the mission’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. 

Following a January 2006 launch, New Horizons is currently about 2.95 billion miles from Earth. The New Horizons spacecraft is in good shape and all systems are operating normally. 


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