On July 14, New Horizons made history as it soared past the Pluto system at a blistering 31,000 miles per hour. During its closest approach, the spacecraft snapped images and gathered as much data as it could.
On Friday, NASA released a video from images stitched together during New Horizons’ fly by.
You can see New Horizons approach Pluto and its five moons. Charon is easy to make out as it’s the closest and largest moon. The white lines represent the orbit paths of Pluto’s four other moons – Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos.
Next, you see the now iconic closeup of Pluto and its surprisingly varied surface. A look back at Pluto shows its atmosphere glow as sunlight passes through it. As New Horizons barrels out of the Pluto system as fast as it entered, you can see the thin crescents of Pluto and Charon.
It’s pretty cool how similar Bjorn Jonsson’s animation is with NASA’s official release. Check out Jonsson’s video below.
New Horizons’ next stop? Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69.
New Pluto Images coming by the end of next week
The spectacular images of Pluto released in July were just a tiny part of the data stored on New Horizons. Principal Investigator Alan Stern announced recently data downloads will get started again by the end of this week. SpaceFlightNow’s Stephen Clark was at the Outer Planets Advisory group meeting where Stern made the announcement.
Alan Stern: 95% of Pluto data still on NH spacecraft, data downloads resume end of next week. I was told previously next pix arrive Sept. 5.
— Stephen Clark (@StephenClark1) August 25, 2015
It’s crazy to think of all the info still stored billions of miles away from Earth. The New Horizons team won’t have all the data from the Pluto encounter until late 2016.
Before I wrap this up, what is your favorite New Horizons image of Pluto? Here’s mine:
There’s just so much going on here. You have the mountain range extending north to south in the middle, the dark, cratered areas on the left and the surprisingly smooth surface on the right. Who knew Pluto would have such a varied terrain?
Image credits: NASA