News

New findings on Pluto and its moons from New Horizons

20 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Five months after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, knowledge about this distant system continues to unfold, yet the spacecraft is less than halfway through transmitting data about the Pluto system to Earth. New Horizons science team members presented the latest findings at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) autumn meeting in San Francisco.

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Pluto’s close-up, now in colour

12 December 2015 Astronomy Now

This enhanced colour mosaic combines some of the sharpest views of Pluto that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its 14 July flyby, revealing features smaller than half a city block on the dwarf planet’s surface. The wide variety of cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains seen here gives scientists and the public alike a breathtaking, super-high-resolution colour window into Pluto’s geology.

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New Horizons returns first, best images of Pluto

4 December 2015 Astronomy Now

It is almost five months since New Horizons’ epic encounter with Pluto, but the captured images and data will stream back to Earth across 3 billion miles of interplanetary space for a further 11 months. The first in a series of the best close-ups of the dwarf planet that humans may see for decades have been released, obtained when the spacecraft was just 15 minutes before closest approach during the 14 July flyby.

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A day on Pluto, a day on Charon

20 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Pluto’s day is 6.4 Earth days long. The dwarf planet’s largest moon, Charon, also rotates once every 6.4 days as the two worlds are tidally locked to each another. This sequence of images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows us full rotations of the two bodies.

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New Horizons returns full view of Pluto’s stunning crescent

30 October 2015 Astronomy Now

In September, the New Horizons team released a stunning but incomplete image of Pluto’s crescent. Thanks to updated processing work by the science team, New Horizons is releasing the entire, breathtaking image of Pluto. The team also released images showing extended mapping of the dwarf planet’s “heart” feature and young craters on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

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New Horizons team publishes first research paper on Pluto findings

15 October 2015 Astronomy Now

The New Horizons team described a wide range of findings about the Pluto system in its first research paper published today — just three months after NASA’s historic first exploration of the dwarf planet. New Horizons has revealed a degree of diversity and complexity on Pluto and its moons that few expected in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system.

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Extended haze in Pluto’s atmosphere

25 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Backlit by the Sun, Pluto’s atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo in this image taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometres) from the dwarf planet.

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New Horizons discovers flowing ices on Pluto

25 July 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s New Horizons mission has found evidence of exotic ices flowing across Pluto’s surface, at the left edge of its bright heart-shaped area. New close-up images from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) reveal signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists hoped to find but didn’t expect.

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Close-up of Charon’s ‘Mountain in a Moat’

17 July 2015 Astronomy Now

In a tantalising preview of what the surface of Pluto’s largest moon will look like in sharper future close-ups from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, this image from 1.5 hours before closest approach shows a depression with a peak in the middle.