The New Horizons spacecraft has sent the first pics of Pluto.
Now Pluto can be seen as it was never seen before. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent the most focused photographs of Pluto yet to planet earth. These were taken during the July flyby. They are indeed a marvelous panorama in close-up of the world that is Pluto.
The New Horizons spacecraft is about the size of a grand piano. The pics were a part of a sequence that were taken along the way. At its closest to Pluto, the spacecraft took the photos.
“These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on planet Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, former astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
“New Horizons thrilled us during the July flyby with the first close images of Pluto, and as the spacecraft transmits the treasure trove of images in its onboard memory back to us, we continue to be amazed by what we see.”
The resolution of the pics was about 250 to 280 feet per pixel. Thus this sort of imagery extends to even more than the size of a city block. Craters, mountains and glaciers were recorded on the planetary surface. The diversity and variety of features on Pluto may now be seen.
Via these pics the robotic probe’s powers have been amply demonstrated. Pluto’s geology is there for all to gaze at in wonderment. Pics of Venus or Mars didn’t show such high resolution. But there you have it. Pluto is in full focus and everything about it is crystal clear.
“These new images give us a breathtaking, super-high resolution window into Pluto’s geology,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.
“Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there already – down among the craters, ice fields and mountains – less than five months after flyby! The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable.”
Yet here it is, so close to us via the pictures that the whole scenario seems simply unbelievable. Pluto’s ice-covered surface is in the form of layers. Gazing into the geological features of Pluto is also like looking back in history into its original formation. The impact craters are there too. And the mountain represent an absolutely stunning view.
There are rough features in the form of ridges that surround many of the mountains. The mountains basically consist of ice blocks that have been shifted and shoved here and there till they have reached their present state.
“Impact craters are nature's drill rigs, and the new, highest-resolution pictures of the bigger craters seem to show that Pluto's icy crust, at least in places, is distinctly layered,” said William McKinnon, deputy lead of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, from Washington University in St. Louis.
“Looking into Pluto’s depths is also looking back into geologic time, which will help us piece together Pluto’s geological history.”
“The mountains bordering Sputnik Planum are absolutely stunning at this resolution” added New Horizons science team member John Spencer.
“The new details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce our earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations.”
The images were taken with the LORRI telescope. They were taken from a distance that was 10,000 miles away from Pluto. The method of photography was unique. More visuals are expected over the next few days.
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Meanwhile, the New Horizons spacecraft is speeding away through space at the rate of 32,000 miles per hour. It is expected to leave Pluto behind and go into the regions beyond the solar system.