Monday, July 13, 2015

Strange New Worlds

The latest pics of Pluto and Charon from New Horizons have just been released and, while the best is still yet to come, they show these worlds as never seen before.

Here's the official description given to the image of Pluto above:
Pluto’s bright, mysterious “heart” is rotating into view, ready for its close-up on close approach, in this image taken by New Horizons on July 12 from a distance of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers). It is the target of the highest-resolution images that will be taken during the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The intriguing “bulls- eye” feature at right is rotating out of view, and will not be seen in greater detail. 
And Charon:
Charon’s newly-discovered system of chasms, larger than the Grand Canyon on Earth, rotates out of view in New Horizons’ sharpest image yet of the Texas-sized moon. It’s trailed by a large equatorial impact crater that is ringed by bright rays of ejected material. In this latest image, the dark north polar region is displaying new and intriguing patterns. This image was taken on July 12 from a distance of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers).
The best is yet to come with data collected during tomorrow's flyby. As I write this closest approach is in just 8 hours 45 minutes. The New Horizons spacecraft will spend the encounter performing science observations to the exclusion of all else. This means that there will be no science data or communications of any kind coming from the spacecraft until well after the encounter has ended.

This means that all the cool pics will not come until later. Because of the slow download times much of the data will be very slow in coming back, taking many months. Still, if all goes well there will be some wonderful imagery soon enough.

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