New Horizons: Pluto-Charon – 1

New Horizons was about 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Pluto and Charon when it snapped this portrait late on July 8, 2015.
Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI

For the next few days I am going to break my own rule and post NASA images instead of my own.

The New Horizons spacecraft has almost reached its targeted fly through of the Pluto-Charon System and as this is the first flyby of the last of the classical planets (I know, I know…. Pluto is a dwarf planet now) it is worth posting some of the astonishing images as they come in. I don’t see anything else like this happening again in my lifetime.

Here are the first astonishing images, taken during the last week of approach:

Tantalizing signs of geology on Pluto are revealed in this image from New Horizons taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away.
Tantalizing signs of geology on Pluto are revealed in this image from New Horizons taken on July 9, 2015, from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away. Credit: NASA
Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015. The annotated version includes a diagram showing Charon’s north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted.
Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015. The annotated version includes a diagram showing Charon’s north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted . Credit NASA
New Horizons was about 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Pluto and Charon when it snapped this portrait late on July 8, 2015. Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI
New Horizons was about 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Pluto and Charon when it snapped this portrait late on July 8, 2015. Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI

This is the best we saw before New Horizons:

What Hubble Saw
What Hubble Saw

The Pluto-Charon System:

The Pluto-Charon System
The Pluto-Charon System. Credit: NASA

The Pluto-Charon System is on average 39 AU from the Sun but is currently only about 32 AU from Earth due to its eccentric orbit around the Sun, which takes 249.9 Earth years.

Pluto is 2,390 km in diameter with five moons and is currently +14.1 magnitude.

Charon is 1208 km in diameter and magnitude +17.3 at opposition. It orbits at a distance of 17536±4 km to the system barycenter, (19571±4 km to the center of Pluto) once every 6 days 9 hours, 17 minutes. (Wikipedia)


(c) Page Copyright Roger Powell 2015
(c) Images Courtesy NASA


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