Pluto and its moon Charon photographed

This 14 July 2017 video says about itself:

Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.

This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra — which exhibits deep and wide pits — before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.

Digital mapping and rendering were performed by Paul Schenk and John Blackwell of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

From World Science in the USA:

New Pluto images released with historic flyby

July 14, 2015

Courtesy of NASA and World Science staff

NASA has re­leased new im­ages of Plu­to with a his­tor­ic fly­by this morn­ing of the agen­cy’s New Hori­zons space­craft, launched in 2006.

The Pluto image, taken shortly be­fore the fly­by, has a reso­lution of about 4 km per pix­el, the scien­tists said in a media brief­ing July 14. That’s about a thou­sand times more de­tailed than the best im­ages taken from near Earth.

A re­lat­ed im­age tak­en July 11 also shows Plu­to’s larg­est moon, Char­on. Col­or da­ta be­ing re­turned by the space­craft now will up­date these im­ages, bring­ing col­or con­trast in­to sharp­er fo­cus, ac­cord­ing to agen­cy sci­en­tists.

Agen­cy sci­en­tists al­so re­ported the dis­cov­ery of a sys­tem of chasms on Char­on, larg­er than the Grand Can­yon on Earth.

The closest approach was about 7,700 miles (about 12,400 km) and took place at 7:49 a.m., according to NASA scientists.

New Horizons is currently out of communication from Earth so that it can focus on Pluto, they added, but is expected will start releasing additional data this evening and in the coming days and months.

The flyby “completes the reconnaissance” of the solar system by spaceships, started with Mars 50 years ago, said Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute, principal investigator for New Horizons, at the briefing.

Many more images will be “raining to the ground beginning tomorrow,” he added.

The images show Pluto and Charon as quite different, he added. “To my eye, these images show a much younger surface on Pluto, and a much older and more battered surface on Charon,” he remarked. This could be due to more active geology or atmospheric activity, changing the surface of Pluto, he said. “It sure looks” as though it snows, for example. But further images should help clarify this.

The piano-sized New Horizons craft zipped past Pluto at an estimated 30,800 miles (49,600 km) per hour.

In related findings, up­dat­ed mea­sure­ments ob­tained by New Hori­zons in­di­cate that Plu­to is 2,370 km (1,473 miles) wide, 18.5 per­cent the width of Earth. Mean­while Char­on is mea­sured as about half as wide as Pluto, or 1,208 km, about the size of Tex­as.

Pluto is a type of planet known as an “ice dwarf,” found in the Kuiper Belt region billions of miles from the sun. The Kuiper belt, a ring of icy rocks outside the orbit of Neptune, is the source of some comets and an object of astronomers’ interest in its own right, as it’s thought to contain ancient leftovers of the planet formation process.

See also here.

12 thoughts on “Pluto and its moon Charon photographed

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