NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first close-up images of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. Enjoy:
All photos, captions and graphic: NASA
New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise — a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.
Credits: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI
Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers). Credits: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI
A swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from left to right, suggesting widespread fracturing of Charon’s crust, likely a result of internal processes. At upper right, along the moon’s curving edge, is a canyon estimated to be 4 to 6 miles (7 to 9 kilometers) deep.
This graphic presents a view of Pluto and Charon as they would appear if placed slightly above Earth’s surface and viewed from a great distance. Recent measurements obtained by New Horizons indicate that Pluto has a diameter of 2370 km, 18.5% that of Earth’s, while Charon has a diameter of 1208 km, 9.5% that of Earth’s.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home Tuesday night, reporting that it had made it to Pluto and beyond after crossing the solar system for 9.5 years. To the immense relief of the men and women who had built and flung it into deep space, the robotic probe sent a brief stream of data that was received shortly before 9 p.m. confirming that it had survived its close pass of the dwarf planet
Read more here
As New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto, after a three-billion-mile, decade-long journey, “John” asked “me” to share the photo above with you.
John also wrote:
This morning, the United States became the first country to reach Pluto — and the first country to explore the entire classical solar system: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary probe has been making its way to Pluto since January 19, 2006, and has been providing the world with the sharpest photos ever seen of our Solar System’s most prominent “dwarf planet.” Today, it made its closest approach to Pluto yet — about 8,000 miles — at around 07:49:57 EDT.
That we were able to get so close to Pluto today is a feat whose probability scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson likened to “a hole-in-one on a two-mile golf shot.” He’s right.
Every once in a while, a photo comes along that has the ability to shift not just how we see our place in the universe, but how we see ourselves — not just as Americans, but as citizens of Earth.
This is one of those photos, and I hope you’ll share it with someone today.
More soon —
“John” is Dr. John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.
Of course that letter was sent to all Americans.
This is what he says about the photo:
Here’s the photo they took — which, despite traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), took four and a half hours to reach us here on Earth as it crossed the 3 billion miles between here and Pluto.
Read more about this fantastic voyage here.
Below: Guests and New Horizons team members countdown to the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Follow Dorian de Wind on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ddewind99
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.