NASA Captures a Side of Pluto We’ve Never Seen BeforeJuly 16, 2015
On July 14, 2015, NASA gave Pluto the spotlight, attention that the dwarf planet seemed to have lacked since its discovery in 1930. At 7:49 am EDT (11:49 GMT) NASA’s spacecraft called New Horizons flew by Pluto. For the first time since the Voyager’s mission in 1989, an American spacecraft will make history by flying past an unexplored planet.The principal investigator for New Horizons, Alan Stern, told reporters on July 13th, “It sounds like it’s science fiction, but it’s not […] Tomorrow morning, an American spacecraft will fly by the planet Pluto and make history.
And history it did make. Well, it made quite the impression. The close-up snap shot was taken via the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The spacecraft had been traveling through space for almost ten years, and this is its first mission from Earth.
The LORRI is a narrow angle (field of view=0.29°), high resolution (4.95 µrad pixels), Ritchey-Chrétien telescope with a 20.8 cm diameter primary mirror, a focal length of 263 cm, and a three lens field-flattening assembly. The LORRI gives NASA panchromatic images through a bandpass that reaches anywhere from 350 nanometers to 850 nanometers.
New Horizons was 476,000 miles away from the surface of the planet when it took this incredible photograph of the dwarf planet. This particular photograph was the result of combing a low resolution color image with a high resolution black and white image so that we would be able to see the details of the planet clearly.
One of the more distinct characteristics about the planet that many people seem to notice is the “heart” shape on the terrain. The “heart” measures approximately 1,000 miles wide. There does not appear the be any features on the surface of the “heart,” which may signify that there are some geological processes taking place.
This is just the first bit of data that has been received from New Horizons. The spacecraft is the fastest ship that has been launched as of date, and NASA estimates that it will take close to 16 months to send the 10 years’ worth of data that it had collected back to NASA’s headquarters.