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Behold the Hidden Colors of Pluto

Enhanced-color view of Pluto (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Enhanced-color view of Pluto (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This newly-released picture of Pluto isn’t quite what our eyes would perceive… but then our eyes aren’t high-tech scientific imaging sensors like the ones aboard New Horizons! An enhanced-color image made from data acquired by the spacecraft’s LORRI and Ralph cameras on July 13, 2015, this view of Pluto shows the many variations in surface compositions across the planet’s visible area. What the compositions are specifically and how they got to be in the places they’re in are questions still being worked on by scientists, so for now we can all just have fun speculating and enjoy the view!

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NASA Delivers a Brand-New Blue Marble Pic

2015's newest

2015’s newest “blue marble” image, captured from a million miles away via the NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite.

It’s over halfway through 2015 and perhaps it’s high time for an all-new, updated, knock-your-socks-off “blue marble” photo of our beautiful planet Earth. And so earlier this week NASA delivered just that, courtesy of the high-definition EPIC camera (yes, that’s a real acronym) aboard the DSCOVR spacecraft positioned nearly a million miles away toward the Sun. The image above was captured on July 6, 2015, using the camera’s visible-light channels… it’s how Earth would appear to our eyes were we there (with the help of a telephoto lens, that is.)

And it really is a “blue marble” image, of the kind previously only captured by departing (or approaching) planetary exploration spacecraft or from inside Moon-bound Apollo capsules (see below)… you simply can’t get a shot like this from low-Earth orbit!

“This is the first true blue marble photo since 1972.”
– John Grunsfeld, NASA, July 24, 2015

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Another Mountain Range Discovered on Pluto

LORRI camera images of Pluto from July 13 (left) and July 14 (right) – the enlarged area shows a second mountain range on the border of Tombaugh Regio. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. Edit by Jason Major).

LORRI camera images of Pluto from July 13 (left) and July 14 (right) – the enlarged area shows a second mountain range on the border of Tombaugh Regio. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. Edit by Jason Major).

A new image from New Horizons has emerged, showing a new, smaller mountain range on the southwestern border of Pluto’s “heart” region. The image was captured during the July 14 flyby, during which time the spacecraft passed less than 8,000 miles from the planet’s surface.

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Pluto’s Ice Mountains Revealed in Stunning Detail

Enormous ice mountains discovered on Pluto

Enormous ice mountains discovered on Pluto. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

At 3 p.m. EDT today, July 15 2015, from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the New Horizons team revealed to the world the first high-resolution image acquired of the surface of Pluto. This was obtained during the historic July 14 flyby with New Horizons’ “Ralph” camera, and it’s our very first close-up view of this distant world’s fascinating, beautiful, and surprisingly crater-free surface! Of course more will be coming as the days, weeks, and months pass, and many further studies will be done to determine the nature of all of the features revealed, but for now – enjoy.

This is truly an amazing time in space exploration!

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Share the Pluto Love!

New Horizons image of Pluto the day before the flyby. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

New Horizons image of Pluto the day before the flyby. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

It’s happened! At 7:49 a.m. EDT (11:49 UTC) this morning, July 14 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft performed its close pass of Pluto and, fourteen minutes later, its moon Charon. While we won’t receive a signal from New Horizons until about 9 p.m. tonight (and image data from the flyby won’t arrive until July 15th) NASA did share this gorgeous image this morning just before the flyby. it was taken by New Horizons on July 13th and has a resolution of about 4 km (2.4 miles) per pixel, and shows the distant world in approximate true-color. It’s highly-publicized “heart” feature is seen front-and-center – proof that Pluto loves ya!

And, according to New Horizons PI Dr. Alan Stern, this is but a teaser for the “data waterfall” that’s to begin arriving tomorrow! What an amazing day for science.

“The New Horizons team is proud to have accomplished the first exploration of the Pluto system. This mission has inspired people across the world with the excitement of exploration and what humankind can achieve.”

– Dr. Alan Stern, New Horizons PI, SwRI

The New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins APL when the image above was revealed. (NASA TV)

The New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins APL when the image above was revealed. (NASA TV)

The spacecraft is now moving away from the Pluto system at over 30,000 mph. It will spend the next 16 months transmitting data from the flyby back to Earth so scientists can fill in the long-missing gaps on our knowledge of Pluto and its family of moons.

Check back at the New Horizons site for updates.

“It’s truly amazing that humankind can go out and explore these worlds.”
– Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager

Update: I had a chance to talk about Pluto with Nerdist.com writer Sarah Keartes – check out her article here.

Also, there was a funny segment by Stephen Colbert and Neil deGrasse Tyson (whom I do not completely agree with regarding Pluto) on the night of the flyby about these images of Pluto – check that out below!

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Here’s Our Best and Last Look at Pluto’s Moon-facing Side

Pluto's Charon-facing side imaged by New Horizons on July 11, 2015 (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Pluto’s Charon-facing side imaged by New Horizons on July 11, 2015 (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Three days before New Horizons’ closest pass by Pluto and we already have the first final image of the mission: this is the last “best” view we will have of Pluto’s Charon-facing side, as the spacecraft will be acquiring its most detailed images of the planet’s opposite side on July 14.

Pluto and its largest moon Charon are locked together gravitationally, a scenario called tidal locking. The face of one is always aimed at the same face of the other, and they orbit around a point in space (the barycenter) that is located between the two (but closer to Pluto.) Thus the image above shows the side of Pluto that Charon always “sees.”*
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