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Wonderful new image of Pluto's biggest moon Charon revealed — NASA's New Horizons

21 January 2017
Wonderful new image of Pluto's biggest moon Charon revealed — NASA's New Horizons

The movie was created using images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft during its approach and close flyby of the dwarf planet in July, 2015.

The color aspects come from a low-resolution color camera on board New Horizons.

"The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto - starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon - and leading up to an eventual ride in for a "landing" on the shoreline of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planitia", says NASA.

In a video posted January 20, NASA created a movie that allowed viewers to feel as if they were diving into Pluto. Scientists combined that color information with the higher-resolution black-and-white images for the video released on Thursday.

"The Pluto system data that New Horizons collected has amazed us over and over again with the beauty and complexity of Pluto and its system of moons", said Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons. The craft is now heading deeper into space to investigate objects in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system that extends from beyond Neptune's orbit. The spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on February 28, 2007, flying at a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers). After passing Jupiter, the probe went in hibernation mode to preserve on-board systems.

Aside from the Ralph camera that is a visible and infrared light imager, science payloads aboard the New Horizons spacecraft include: the Alice ultraviolet imaging spectrometer, REX (Radio Science EXperiment) passive radiometer, LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) telescopic camera, SWAP (Solar Wind Around Pluto) wind and plasma spectrometer, PEPSSI (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) energetic particle spectrometer, and VBSDC (Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter) for measuring space dust.

New Horizons has spent the better part of a decade working on its Pluto mission - it took 9.5 years to travel to the dwarf planet, a journey of more than three billion miles.

Now, New Horizons is on its way to explore another even more distant world 2014 MU69 - a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles beyond Pluto. This encounter is expected to take place on January 1, 2019. The more curious can view the original black and white video on the New Horizons website. The spacecraft captured these pictures during its closest flyby of July 2015.