The science team of NASA’s New Horizons mission has produced this global map of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. The map includes all available resolved images of the surface acquired between 7-14 July 2015, at pixel resolutions ranging from 40 kilometres (24 miles) on the anti-Pluto facing hemisphere (left and right sides of the map), to 400 metres (1,250 feet) per pixel on portions of the Pluto-facing hemisphere – the side facing the New Horizons spacecraft when it flew past the dwarf planet – at map centre. Many additional images now stored on the spacecraft’s digital data recorders are expected to be transmitted “home” in later this year and these will be used to complete the global map. The map is in simple cylindrical projection, with zero longitude (the Pluto-facing direction) in the centre.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made a historic New Year’s encounter with an object nicknamed Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt a billion miles beyond Pluto. The probe passed around 3,500 kilometres from the mysterious object at 0533 GMT on New Year’s Day, making it the most distant Solar System body ever explored up close.
Scientists have determined that comets produce X-ray emission when particles in the solar wind strike the comet’s atmosphere. Recently, astronomers announced the results of a study using data collected with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory of two comets — C/2012 S1 ISON and C/2011 S4 PanSTARRS — when both were relatively close to Earth.