Sunday, July 12, 2015

Closing in on Pluto and Charon

The New Horizons space probe is starting to reveal wonderful details on Pluto. Here's a shot taken on July 11th (yesterday):
There's some interesting terrain and brightness variations. Because of Pluto's rotation and the path that the spacecraft is flying, this is the last and best look that we'll get of this side of Pluto - the one that permanently faces its large moon Charon. This photo was taken from a distance of 2.4 million miles and it may be some decades before we get a closer look that these large dark areas.
Charon is also starting to come into focus. The image above (also taken yesterday) hints at features similar to what is seen on Pluto, but what they are remains to be seen.

The view of both worlds will continue to improve as the probe closes in.
For the latest on where New Horizons is in its flight path be sure to visit their Current Position page. When I grabbed this image New Horizons was just 2,299,185 km (1.4 million miles) from Pluto and closing in on the dwarf planet at 13.8 km/sec (8.6 miles/second).

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