Pluto Paints Charon Red


full-res-charonThe New Horizons spacecraft took this high-resolution, enhanced color photo of Pluto’s largest moon Charon just before closest approach on 14 July, 2015. This image was created by combining blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera. It’s been processed to highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. The reddish material in the north (top) polar region (informally known as Mordor Macula) is methane that has escaped from Pluto’s atmosphere and been captured by Charon. Charon is 1,214 km across, and this image resolves details as small as 2.9 km.

Image Credit: NASA

Our Last Close Look at Jupiter


NH_flybyThe New Horizons spacecraft took some stunning images of Jupiter when it flew by for a gravity assist in 2007 on its way out to Pluto. This image has been horizontally compressed. It was taken near Jupiter’s terminator and shows the planet’s diverse cloud patterns. The clouds on the left are closest to Jupiter’s South Pole. Here turbulent whirlpools and swirls are seen in a dark region, called a belt, that circles the planet. Moving north, light colored regions, called zones, shown complex wave patterns. These bands can be seen in much less detail with even a small telescope by backyard astronomers.

New Horizons is the fastest space probe ever launched. It successfully complete its flyby of Pluto in 2015, and is now on course to flyby Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69 in 2019. We’ll be getting new close ups of Jupiter soon. The Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter next Monday.

Image Credit: NASA

The Dark Side of Pluto


PlutoNightNew Horizons was about 21,000 kilometers beyond Pluto, about 19 minutes after its closest approach, when it took this picture. The image also reveals Pluto’s tenuous and complex layers of hazy atmosphere. The crescent twilight landscape near the top of the frame are areas on the south of the planet including the nitrogen ice plains informally known as Sputnik Planum and rugged mountains of water-ice in the Norgay Montes.

Image Credit: NASA