With less than six days remaining now until closest approach, Pluto is starting to show its real face for the first time ever, including a big “heart.”
After an anomaly was detected onboard the New Horizons spacecraft on July 4, which had many people holding their collective breath, NASA announced today that science operations will resume on July 7, just days before the spacecraft makes its closest approach to Pluto and its moons on July 14.
First there were the unusual bright spots on Ceres, which are still awaiting an explanation, and now as New Horizons races toward its flyby encounter with Pluto on July 14, another mystery has emerged: four intriguing large dark spots more or less along Pluto’s equator which seem to be roughly the same size and evenly spaced. The spots are mentioned as part of an update on July 1 from NASA about the “two different faces of Pluto” that scientists are now starting to see in more detail.
The latest images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. The view keeps getting better, with many dark and light areas becoming visible. Also the largest moon Charon:
These are the newest images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft as it continues to get closer. Light and dark surface features are starting to be seen more clearly now, and closest encounter is now just over a month away!
These are the newest images of Pluto from New Horizons, taken from May 8-12, 2015, at a distance of just under 77 million kilometres (50 million miles). More detail on the surface can be seen now, with a lot of albedo variations. Not much longer now until closest approach on July 14, when the best images then will have 5,000 times the resolution of these ones!
This is the first colour photo of the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken on April 9, 2015, from a distance of about 71 million 115 million kilometers (71 million miles).