Sunset on Pluto [Slide Show]

Sep 23, 2015

By Scientific American

The latest jaw-dropping images from NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto almost seem unreal, too vivid and majestic to exist anywhere outside of an artist’s imagination. Yet real they are, captured shortly after the spacecraft’s closest approach to the dwarf planet on July 14 and subsequently downlinked to Earth on September 13. Draped in shadow by the glancing light of a far-distant setting sun, a landscape of craggy ice mountains and flowing glaciers stretches to the horizon, blanketed by layers of haze and fog. As gorgeous as these new images are, the best may still be in store: Limits on data-transmission rates from the outskirts of the solar system ensure that more Plutonian pictures with higher resolution will be whispered back to Earth for many months to come

View all the photos by clicking the name of the source below.

4 comments on “Sunset on Pluto [Slide Show]

  • Plutonian pictures with higher resolution will be whispered back to Earth for many months to come

    It was always in the plan to keep the cameras pointing at the planet and moons during the flypast, and then turn the craft to point the antenna at Earth later for transmissions of stored data. The power for transmission is quite low, so the images and data will be transmitted during the months when the New Horizons craft is in interplanetary space with not a lot to see.
    Then it will prepare for its next encounter with another Kuiper-Belt object.

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  • 2
    Bulgarian Atheist says:

    It looks kind of bleak and lonely. Invaluable photos nonetheless, but I prefer Earth’s sunset. So much more beautiful. XD

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  • I see there is a new release of images of Charon:-
    Pluto’s major moon, Charon, takes centre stage in this week’s release of new pictures from the New Horizons mission.

    The latest images are both the most highly resolved and the best colour views that we have seen so far.

    The US space agency mission is in the process of downlinking all the data it gathered during its historic flyby of Pluto on 14 July.

    It is expected to take well into 2016 to get every bit of information back.

    The slow drip feed is a consequence of the vast distance to New Horizons, which continues to push ever deeper into the outer Solar System.

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  • New Horizons continues to download new images from its memory: –
    An image of Kerberos, one of the two tiny moons of Pluto, has finally been returned by the US space agency’s New Horizons probe.

    It shows the object to have two lobes, which may be the consequence of icy bodies bumping into each other and joining up.

    Kerberos’s larger lobe is judged to be about 8km across. The smaller lobe is roughly 5km in diameter.

    Styx, the other little moon in the system, is of a comparable size.

    Mission scientists say these satellites are brighter than they expected. Planetary bodies usually darken over time as a result of chemical changes triggered by sunlight and cosmic ray impacts.

    But these moons reflect about 50% of all incident light, which indicates their water-ice covering is very clean.

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