Thursday, September 17, 2015

Latest From The Edge Of The Solar System!

I just saw the most incredible image yet from the New Horizon spacecraft, just sent from Pluto and I had to share it with someone!  Shown at left is the image, with NASA's caption reading:

Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 3,500 meters high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 18,000 kilometers to Pluto; the scene is 1,250 kilometers wide.
While taken mid-July, over 2 months ago, data from the close encounter is continuing to trickle down, and will continue to do so for something like a year! The gift that keeps on giving... Since this blog is limited to images only 1600 pixels wide, the original image is much larger. I won't try to add my own interpretations, nor give the details of how it was taken - I leave that to the experts - in particular, Emily Lakdawalla's excellent blog, where I first saw the original image.  She has an excellent summary describing what we are seeing and how it was taken. Be sure to read it and visit ALL the links she has on her post. Incredible stuff!

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