NASA’s New Horizons probe was 126 million miles away when it snapped the picture above. It’s the latest blurry look at Pluto and its largest moon from the New Horizons probe. The image below shows what Pluto and Charon looked like on July 23, 2014.
The images were taken late last month by the telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on board the probe. The images of Pluto and its largest moon will only get better as New Horizons gets closer. The closest flyby is expected to happen on July 14. On that date, New Horizons will be just 7,750 miles away from Pluto.
Here’s a GIF with the two images snapped by New Horizons on January 25 and 27.
“Pluto is finally becoming more than just a pinpoint of light,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist. “LORRI has now resolved Pluto, and the dwarf planet will continue to grow larger and larger in the images as New Horizons spacecraft hurtles toward its targets. The new LORRI images also demonstrate that the camera’s performance is unchanged since it was launched more than nine years ago.”
Not much can be seen in the photo above. But, mission officials will use this picture and hundreds more over the next few months for course-correcting maneuvers. The first maneuver based off these images is set for March 10.
During the probe’s closest approach, the best images will show detail of Pluto’s surface down to 200 feet across.
New Horizons is packed with seven instruments. Three imaging instruments, two plasma instruments, a dust sensor and a radiometer. This instrument package is designed to tell us more about Pluto’s geology, surface composition, temperature, atmospheric pressure and much more.
It has been a long journey for New Horizons. Since launching on January 19, 2006, the probe has covered more than 3 billion miles. It is cruising towards Pluto and its system of moons at about 31,000 miles per hour.
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