#PlutoFlyby: Closest Approach to Pluto on Tuesday July 14 2015 at 7:49 AM EDT (Livestream included)


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New Horizons has traveled three billion miles for nearly 10 years to reach its closest point to Pluto on Tuesday morning. It is expected to pass within 7,767 miles of the dwarf planet.

UPDATE: 

pluto-observations-through-the-years

Pluto observations through the years. Credit: NASA 15 july 2015

NASA’s New Horizons ‘Phones Home’ Safe after Pluto Flyby
The call everyone was waiting for is in. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home just before 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday July 14 2015 to tell the mission team and the world it had accomplished the historic first-ever flyby of Pluto. New Horizons Spacecraft Signal Received, Successful Pluto Flyby Confirmed  The first High Resolution images were received on July 15 2015: Image Gallery

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New Horizons Pluto Approach animated


Where is New Horizons Now?

New Horizons Current Position

Full Trajectory: Side View This image shows New Horizons’ current position along its full planned trajectory. The green segment of the line shows where New Horizons has traveled since launch; the red indicates the spacecraft’s future path. Positions of stars with magnitude 12 or brighter are shown from this perspective, which is slightly above the orbital plane of the planets.

Trajectory

A diagram of New Horizons’ trajectory through the Pluto system. Times are in Eastern Daylight Time. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

A diagram of New Horizons’ trajectory through the Pluto system. Times are in Eastern Daylight Time. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

pluto-observations-through-the-years

Pluto observations through the years. Credit: NASA 15 july 2015

Follow the path of the spacecraft in coming days in real time with a visualization of the actual trajectory data, using NASA’s online Eyes on Pluto.


New Horizons will focus on the opposing or “encounter hemisphere” of the dwarf planet. On the morning of July 14 2015.
New Horizons will pass about 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) from the face with a large heart-shaped feature that’s captured the imagination of people around the world.

Tuesday, July 14 2015 at 7:49 AM EDT

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PlutoFlyBy july 14 2015At 7:49 AM EDT on Tuesday, July 14 New Horizons will zip past Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour), with a suite of seven science instruments busily gathering data. The mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system with the first-ever look at the icy dwarf planet.

Follow the path of the spacecraft in coming days in real time with a visualization of the actual trajectory data, using NASA’s online Eyes on Pluto.

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 About Pluto 

Dear Earth, Thanks for visiting, Love PlutoPluto (minor-planet designation: 134340 Pluto) is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy trans-Neptunian objects. It was the first such object to be discovered. It is the largest and second-most massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth-largest and tenth-most-massive known object directly orbiting the Sun.

It is the largest known trans-Neptunian object by volume but is less massive than Eris, a dwarf planet in the scattered disc.

Like other Kuiper belt objects, Pluto is primarily made of ice and rock and is relatively small—about one-sixth the mass of the Moon and one-third its volume. It has a moderately eccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 30 to 49 astronomical units (4.4–7.3 billion km) from the Sun. This means that Pluto periodically comes closer to the Sun than Neptune, but a stable orbital resonance with Neptune prevents them from colliding. In 2014, Pluto was 32.6 AU from the Sun. Light from the Sun takes about 5.5 hours to reach Pluto at its average distance (39.4 AU).

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, and was originally considered the ninth planet from the Sun. After 1992, its status as a planet fell into question following the discovery of several objects of similar size in the Kuiper belt. In 2005, Eris, which is 27% more massive than Pluto, was discovered, which led the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the term “planet” formally for the first time the following year. This definition excluded Pluto and reclassified it as a member of the new “dwarf planet” category (and specifically as a plutoid). Some astronomers believe Pluto should still be considered a planet.

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body.The IAU has not formalized a definition for binary dwarf planets, and Charon is officially classified as a moon of Pluto.

On 14 July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft became the first spacecraft to fly by Pluto.During its brief flyby,New Horizons made detailed measurements and observations of Pluto and its moons.

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Updates

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  • A KBO among the Stars
    In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). This composite image is made from 45 of these 10-second exposures taken on Jan. 28, 2017. The yellow diamond marks the predicted location of MU69 on approach, but the KBO itself was too far from the spacecraft (544 million miles, or 877 million kilometers) even for LORRI's telescopic "eye" to detect. New Horizons expects to start seeing MU69 with LORRI in September of 2018 and the team will use these newly acquired images of the background field to help prepare for that search on approach.
  • Blue Rays: New Horizons' High-Res Farewell to Pluto
    This is the highest-resolution color departure shot of Pluto's receding crescent from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, taken when the spacecraft was 120,000 miles (200,000 kilometers) away from Pluto. Shown in approximate true color, the picture was constructed from a mosaic of six black-and-white images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), with color added from a lower resolution Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) color image, all acquired between 15:20 and 15:45 UT about 3.5 hours after closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. The resolution of the LORRI images is about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel; the sun illuminates the scene from the other side of Pluto and somewhat toward the top of this image. The image is dominated by spectacular layers of blue haze in Pluto's atmosphere. Scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules in Pluto's atmosphere, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small haze particles, a fraction of a micrometer in size, which preferentially scatter blue sunlight the same process that can make haze appear bluish on Earth. As they settle down through the atmosphere, the haze particles form numerous intricate, horizontal layers, some extending for hundreds of miles around large portions of the limb of Pluto. The haze layers extend to altitudes of over 120 miles (200 kilometers). Pluto's circumference is 4,667 miles (7,466 kilometers). Adding to the beauty of this picture are mountains and other topographic features on Pluto's surface that are silhouetted against the haze near the top of the image. Sunlight casts dramatic and beautiful finger-like shadows from many of these features onto the haze (especially on the left, near the 11 o'clock position), forming crepuscular rays like those often seen in Earth's atmosphere near sunrise or sunset.
  • A Colorful 'Landing' on Pluto
    View MP4 What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto -- starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon -- and leading up to an eventual ride in for a "landing" on the shoreline of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planitia. To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if theyre diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto's surface. After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are. The original black-and-white "landing" movie can be viewed here.
  • Charon in 'Plutoshine'
    This beautiful image obtained with the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft shows the night side of Pluto's large, Texas-sized moon Charon, against a star field, lit by faint, reflected light from Pluto itself. The bright crescent on Charon's right side is a sliver of sunlit terrain; it is overexposed. New Horizons was already about 100,000 miles (150,000 kilometers) beyond Pluto when the image was taken on July 15, 2015.
  • Pluto Color Map
    This new, detailed global mosaic color map of Pluto is based on a series of three color filter images obtained by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera aboard New Horizons during the NASA spacecraft's close flyby of Pluto in July 2015. The mosaic shows how Pluto's large-scale color patterns extend beyond the hemisphere facing New Horizons at closest approach- which were imaged at the highest resolution. North is up; Pluto's equator roughly bisects the band of dark red terrains running across the lower third of the map. Pluto's giant, informally named Sputnik Planitia glacier - the left half of Pluto's signature "heart" feature - is at the center of this map.
  • Partly Cloudy on Pluto?
    Pluto's present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds, though scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates after examining images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera, during the spacecraft's July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. All are low-lying, isolated small features-no broad cloud decks or fields - and while none of the features can be confirmed with stereo imaging, scientists say they are suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds.
  • Landslides on Charon (annotated)
    Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have spotted signs of long run-out landslides on Pluto's largest moon, Charon. This image of Charon's informally named Serenity Chasma was taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 48,912 miles (78,717 kilometers). Arrows mark indications of landslide activity. Click here for a non-annotated version
  • Landslides on Charon (non-annotated)
    Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have spotted signs of long run-out landslides on Pluto's largest moon, Charon. This image of Charon's informally named Serenity Chasma was taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 48,912 miles (78,717 kilometers). Arrows mark indications of landslide activity. Click here for an annotated version
  • Landslides in a Charon Chasm (annotated)
    Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have spotted signs of long run-out landslides on Pluto's largest moon, Charon. This perspective view of Charon's informally named Serenity Chasm consists of topography generated from stereo reconstruction of images taken by New Horizons, Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), supplemented by a "shape-from-shading" algorithm. The topography is then overlain with this image mosaic (link to first image) and the perspective view is rendered. The MVIC image was taken from a distance of 45,458 miles (73,159 kilometers) while the LORRI picture was taken from 19,511 miles (31,401 kilometers) away, both on July 14, 2015. Click here for a non-annotated version
  • Landslides in a Charon Chasm (non-annotated)
    Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have spotted signs of long run-out landslides on Pluto's largest moon, Charon. This perspective view of Charon's informally named Serenity Chasm consists of topography generated from stereo reconstruction of images taken by New Horizons, Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), supplemented by a "shape-from-shading" algorithm. The topography is then overlain with this image mosaic (link to first image) and the perspective view is rendered. The MVIC image was taken from a distance of 45,458 miles (73,159 kilometers) while the LORRI picture was taken from 19,511 miles (31,401 kilometers) away, both on July 14, 2015. Click here for an annotated version
  • X-Rays from Pluto
    The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. As New Horizons approached Pluto in late 2014 and then flew by the planet during the summer of 2015, Chandra obtained data during four separate observations. During each observation, Chandra detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet. The main panel in this graphic is an optical image taken from New Horizons on its approach to Pluto, while the inset shows an image of Pluto in X-rays from Chandra. There is a significant difference in scale between the optical and X-ray images. New Horizons made a close flyby of Pluto but Chandra is located near the Earth, so the level of detail visible in the two images is very different. The Chandra image is 180,000 miles across at the distance of Pluto, but the planet is only 1,500 miles across. Pluto is detected in the X-ray image as a point source, showing the sharpest level of detail available for Chandra or any other X-ray observatory. This means that details over scales that are smaller than the X-ray source cannot be seen here. Detecting X-rays from Pluto is a somewhat surprising result given that Pluto - a cold, rocky world without a magnetic field - has no natural mechanism for emitting X-rays. However, scientists knew from previous observations of comets that the interaction between the gases surrounding such planetary bodies and the solar wind - the constant streams of charged particles from the sun that speed throughout the solar system can create X-rays. The researchers were particularly interested in learning more about the interaction between the gases in Pluto's atmosphere and the solar wind. The New Horizon spacecraft carries an instrument designed to measure that activity up-close - Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) - and scientists examined that data and proposed that Pluto contains a very mild, close-in bowshock, where the solar wind first "meets" Pluto (similar to a shock wave that forms ahead of a supersonic aircraft) and a small wake or tail behind the planet. The immediate mystery is that Chandra's readings on the brightness of the X-rays are much higher than expected from the solar wind interacting with Pluto's atmosphere. The Chandra detection is also surprising since New Horizons discovered Pluto's atmosphere was much more stable than the rapidly escaping, "comet-like" atmosphere that many scientists expected before the spacecraft flew past in July 2015. In fact, New Horizons found that Pluto's interaction with the solar wind is much more like the interaction of the solar wind with Mars, than with a comet. While Pluto is releasing enough gas from its atmosphere to make the observed X-rays, there isn't enough solar wind flowing directly at Pluto at its great distance from the Sun to make them according to certain theoretical models. There are several suggested possibilities for the enhanced X-ray emission from Pluto. These include a much wider and longer tail of gases trailing Pluto than New Horizons detected using its SWAP instrument. Because Pluto is so small compared to the size of a Chandra point source, scientists may be unable to detect such a tail in X-rays. Other possibilities are that interplanetary magnetic fields are focusing more particles than expected from the solar wind into the region around Pluto, or the low density of the solar wind in the outer solar system at the distance of Pluto could allow for the formation of a doughnut, or torus, of neutral gas centered around Pluto's orbit. It will take deeper and higher resolution images of X-rays from Pluto's environment than we currently have from Chandra to distinguish between these possibilities.
  • Pluto's Methane Snowcaps on the Edge of Darkness
    This area is south of Pluto's dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planitia. North is at the top; in the western portion of the image, a chain of bright mountains extends north into Cthulhu Regio. New Horizons compositional data indicate the bright snowcap material covering these mountains isn't water, but atmospheric methane that has condensed as frost onto these surfaces at high elevation. Between some mountains are sharply cut valleys indicated by the white arrows. These valleys are each a few miles across and tens of miles long. A similar valley system in the expansive plains to the east (blue arrows) appears to be branched, with smaller valleys leading into it. New Horizons scientists think flowing nitrogen ice that once covered this area -- perhaps when the ice in Sputnik was at a higher elevation -- may have formed these valleys. The area is also marked by irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions (green arrows) that can reach more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) across and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep. The great widths and depths of these depressions suggest that they may have formed when the surface collapsed, rather than through the sublimation of ice into the atmosphere. This enhanced color image was obtained by New Horizons' Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. Click here for a non-annotated version
  • Pluto's Methane Snowcaps on the Edge of Darkness (non-annotated)
    This area is south of Pluto's dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planitia. North is at the top; in the western portion of the image, a chain of bright mountains extends north into Cthulhu Regio. New Horizons compositional data indicate the bright snowcap material covering these mountains isn't water, but atmospheric methane that has condensed as frost onto these surfaces at high elevation. Between some mountains are sharply cut valleys indicated by the white arrows. These valleys are each a few miles across and tens of miles long. A similar valley system in the expansive plains to the east (blue arrows) appears to be branched, with smaller valleys leading into it. New Horizons scientists think flowing nitrogen ice that once covered this area -- perhaps when the ice in Sputnik was at a higher elevation -- may have formed these valleys. The area is also marked by irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions (green arrows) that can reach more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) across and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep. The great widths and depths of these depressions suggest that they may have formed when the surface collapsed, rather than through the sublimation of ice into the atmosphere. This enhanced color image was obtained by New Horizons' Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. Click here for an annotated version
  • Pluto's Methane Snowcaps on the Edge of Darkness (context)
    This area is south of Pluto's dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planitia. North is at the top; in the western portion of the image, a chain of bright mountains extends north into Cthulhu Regio. New Horizons compositional data indicate the bright snowcap material covering these mountains isn't water, but atmospheric methane that has condensed as frost onto these surfaces at high elevation. Between some mountains are sharply cut valleys indicated by the white arrows. These valleys are each a few miles across and tens of miles long. A similar valley system in the expansive plains to the east (blue arrows) appears to be branched, with smaller valleys leading into it. New Horizons scientists think flowing nitrogen ice that once covered this area -- perhaps when the ice in Sputnik was at a higher elevation -- may have formed these valleys. The area is also marked by irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions (green arrows) that can reach more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) across and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep. The great widths and depths of these depressions suggest that they may have formed when the surface collapsed, rather than through the sublimation of ice into the atmosphere. This enhanced color image was obtained by New Horizons' Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. Click here for an annotated version
  • New Horizons Spies a Kuiper Belt Companion
    In July 2016, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft observed the Kuiper Belt Object Quaoar ("Kwa-war"), which at 690 miles or 1,100 kilometers in diameter is roughly half the size of Pluto. This animated sequence shows composite images taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at four different times over July 13-14: "A" on July 13 at 02:00 Universal Time; "B" on July 13 at 04:08 UT; "C" on July 14 at 00:06 UT; and "D" on July 14 at 02:18 UT. Each composite includes 24 individual LORRI images, providing a total exposure time of 239 seconds and making the faint object easier to see. New Horizons' location in the Kuiper Belt gives the spacecraft a uniquely oblique view of the small planets like Quaoar orbiting so far from the sun. When these images were taken, Quaoar was approximately 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from the sun and 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion kilometers) from New Horizons. With the oblique view available from New Horizons, LORRI sees only a portion of Quaoar's illuminated surface, which is very different from the nearly fully illuminated view of the KBO from Earth. Comparing Quaoar from the two very different perspectives gives mission scientists a valuable opportunity to study the light-scattering properties of Quaoar's surface. In addition to many background stars, two far away galaxies IC 1048 and UGC 09485, each about 370 billion times farther from New Horizons than Quaoar are also visible in these images. Unlike the galaxies and stars, Quaoar appears to move across the background scene due to its much closer distance. Other objects which appear to move in these images are camera artifacts.
  • Video: Imagine a Landing on Pluto
    View MP4 Imagine a future spacecraft following New Horizons' trailblazing path to Pluto, but instead of flying past its target - as New Horizons needed to do to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond - the next visitor touches down near the tall mountains on the frozen icy, plains of Pluto's heart. A video produced by New Horizons scientists that offers that very perspective. Made from more than 100 New Horizons images taken over six weeks of approach and close flyby, the video offers a trip in to Pluto - starting with a distant spacecraft's-eye view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, to an eventual ride in for a "landing" on the shoreline of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum. The video shows what it would be like to ride aboard an approaching spacecraft and see Pluto grow from a "dot" to become a world, and then to swoop down over Pluto's spectacular terrains. New Horizons scientists had to interpolate some of the frames in the movie based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto itself. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons has sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are - and what great targets they'd make for follow-up mission one day.
  • The Jagged Shores of Pluto's Highlands (Annotated)
    This enhanced color view from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto's great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. Krun Macula Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a macula is a dark feature on a planetary surface is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across Pluto. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain informally named Sputnik Planum and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep. Click here for a non-annotated version At the boundary with Sputnik Planum, these pits form deep valleys reaching more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) long, 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) wide and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep (almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona), and have floors covered with nitrogen ice. New Horizons scientists think these pits may have formed through surface collapse, although what may have prompted such a collapse is a mystery. This scene was created using three separate observations made by New Horizons in July 2015. The right half of the image is composed of 260 feet- (80 meter-) per-pixel data from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), obtained at 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach. The left half is composed of 410 feet- (125 meter-) per-pixel LORRI data, obtained about six minutes earlier, with New Horizons 15,470 miles (24,900 kilometers) from Pluto. These data respectively represent portions of the highest- and second-highest-resolution observations obtained by New Horizons in the Pluto system. The entire scene was then colorized using 2230 feet- (680 meter-) per-pixel data from New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC), obtained at 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before closest approach.
  • The Jagged Shores of Pluto's Highlands
    This enhanced color view from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto's great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula. Krun Macula Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a macula is a dark feature on a planetary surface is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across Pluto. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain informally named Sputnik Planum and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep. Click here for an annotated version At the boundary with Sputnik Planum, these pits form deep valleys reaching more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) long, 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) wide and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep (almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona), and have floors covered with nitrogen ice. New Horizons scientists think these pits may have formed through surface collapse, although what may have prompted such a collapse is a mystery. This scene was created using three separate observations made by New Horizons in July 2015. The right half of the image is composed of 260 feet- (80 meter-) per-pixel data from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), obtained at 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach. The left half is composed of 410 feet- (125 meter-) per-pixel LORRI data, obtained about six minutes earlier, with New Horizons 15,470 miles (24,900 kilometers) from Pluto. These data respectively represent portions of the highest- and second-highest-resolution observations obtained by New Horizons in the Pluto system. The entire scene was then colorized using 2230 feet- (680 meter-) per-pixel data from New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC), obtained at 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before closest approach.
  • Pluto's 'Twilight Zone' (Full Image)
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image was obtained at a high phase angle -that is, with the sun on the other side of Pluto, as viewed by New Horizons. Seen here, sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto's complex atmospheric haze layers. The southern portions of the nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum, as well as mountains of the informally named Norgay Montes, can also be seen across Pluto's crescent at the top of the image. Looking back at Pluto with images like this gives New Horizons scientists information about Pluto's hazes and surface properties that they can't get from images taken on approach. The image was obtained by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) approximately 13,400 miles (21,550 kilometers) from Pluto, about 19 minutes after New Horizons' closest approach. The image has a resolution of 1,400 feet (430 meters) per pixel. Pluto's diameter is 1,475 miles (2,374 kilometers).
  • Secrets Revealed from Pluto's 'Twilight Zone'
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image was obtained at a high phase angle -that is, with the sun on the other side of Pluto, as viewed by New Horizons. Seen here, sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto's complex atmospheric haze layers. The southern portions of the nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum, as well as mountains of the informally named Norgay Montes, can also be seen across Pluto's crescent at the top of the image. Looking back at Pluto with images like this gives New Horizons scientists information about Pluto's hazes and surface properties that they can't get from images taken on approach. The image was obtained by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) approximately 13,400 miles (21,550 kilometers) from Pluto, about 19 minutes after New Horizons' closest approach. The image has a resolution of 1,400 feet (430 meters) per pixel. Pluto's diameter is 1,475 miles (2,374 kilometers). Click here for a full-resolution, unannotated view of the whole image. The inset at top right shows a detail of Pluto's crescent, including an intriguing bright wisp (near the center) measuring tens of miles across that may be a discreet, low-lying cloud in Pluto's atmosphere; if so, it would be the only one yet identified in New Horizons imagery. This cloud - if that's what it is - is visible for the same reason the haze layers are so bright: illumination from the sunlight grazing Pluto's surface at a low angle. Atmospheric models suggest that methane clouds can occasionally form in Pluto's atmosphere. The scene in this inset is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across. The inset at bottom right shows more detail on the night side of Pluto. This terrain can be seen because it is illuminated from behind by hazes that silhouette the limb. The topography here appears quite rugged, and broad valleys and sharp peaks with relief totaling 3 miles (5 kilometers) are apparent. This image, made from closer range, is much better than the lower-resolution images of this same terrain taken several days before closest approach. These silhouetted terrains therefore act as a useful "anchor point," giving New Horizons scientists a rare, detailed glimpse at the lay of the land in this mysterious part of Pluto seen at high resolution only in twilight. The scene in this inset is 460 miles (750 kilometers) wide.
  • Pluto's Heart: Like a Cosmic 'Lava Lamp'
    Like a cosmic lava lamp, a large section of Pluto's icy surface is being constantly renewed by a process called convection that replaces older surface ices with fresher material. Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission used state-of-the-art computer simulations to show that the surface of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum is covered with churning ice "cells" that are geologically young and turning over due to a process called convection. The scene above, which is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) across, uses data from the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), gathered July 14, 2015. Their findings are published in the June 2, 2016, issue of the journal Nature.
  • New Horizons' Best Close-Up of Pluto's Surface
    This mosaic strip, extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, now includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. With a resolution of about 260 feet (80 meters) per pixel, the mosaic affords New Horizons scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain the mosaic covers, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them. The view extends from the "limb" of Pluto at the top of the strip, almost to the "terminator" (or day/night line) in the southeast of the encounter hemisphere, seen at the bottom of the strip. The width of the strip ranges from more than 55 miles (90 kilometers) at its northern end to about 45 miles (75 kilometers) at its southern end. The perspective changes greatly along the strip: at its northern end, the view looks out horizontally across the surface, while at its southern end, the view looks straight down onto the surface. This movie pans down the mosaic from top to bottom, offering new views of many of Pluto's distinct landscapes along the way. Starting with hummocky, cratered uplands at top, the view crosses over parallel ridges of the "washboard" terrain; chaotic and angular mountain ranges; the craterless, cellular plains; coarsely "pitted" areas of sublimating nitrogen ice; zones of thin nitrogen ice draped over the topography below; and rugged, dark, mountainous highlands scarred by deep pits. The pictures in the mosaic were obtained by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) approximately 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons closest approach.
  • New Horizons' Best Close-Up of Pluto's Surface (movie)
    This "movie," which extends across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe. With a resolution of about 260 feet (80 meters) per pixel, the movie affords New Horizons scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain the mosaic covers, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them. The view extends from the "limb" of Pluto at the top of the strip, almost to the "terminator" (or day/night line) in the southeast of the encounter hemisphere, seen at the bottom of the strip. The width of the strip ranges from more than 55 miles (90 kilometers) at its northern end to about 45 miles (75 kilometers) at its southern end. The perspective changes greatly along the strip: at its northern end, the view looks out horizontally across the surface, while at its southern end, the view looks straight down onto the surface. This movie pans down the mosaic from top to bottom, offering new views of many of Plutos distinct landscapes along the way. Starting with hummocky, cratered uplands at top, the view crosses over parallel ridges of the "washboard" terrain; chaotic and angular mountain ranges; the craterless, cellular plains; coarsely "pitted" areas of sublimating nitrogen ice; zones of thin nitrogen ice draped over the topography below; and rugged, dark, mountainous highlands scarred by deep pits. The frames in the movie were obtained by New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) approximately 9,850 miles (15,850 kilometers) from Pluto, about 23 minutes before New Horizons closest approach. LORRI is only capable of obtaining black-and-white images; all color images are made by the Ralph instrument, which has somewhat lower resolution than LORRI. Watch the movie (mp4, 168.7 MB) Watch a version without labels (mp4, 156.93)
  • Pluto’s ‘Fretted’ Terrain
    In looking over images of Plutos informally named Venera Terra region, New Horizons scientists have spotted an expanse of terrain they describe as fretted. As shown in the enhanced-color image at top, this terrain consists of bright plains divided into polygon-shaped blocks by a network of dark, connected valleys typically reaching a few miles (3 to 4 kilometers) wide. Numerous impact craters of up to 15 miles (25 kilometers) in diameter also dot the area, implying the surface formed early in Plutos history. New Horizons scientists havent seen this type of terrain anywhere else on Pluto; in fact, its rare terrain across the solar system the only other well-known example of such being Noctis Labyrinthus on Mars. The distinct interconnected valley network was likely formed by extensional fracturing of Plutos surface. The valleys separating the blocks may then have been widened by movement of nitrogen ice glaciers, or flowing liquids, or possibly by ice sublimation at the block margins. Compositional data from New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), shown in the bottom image, indicate that the blocks are rich in methane ice (shown as false-color purple); methane is susceptible to sublimation at Pluto surface conditions. The resolution of these MVIC images is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. They were obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • First Stellar Occultations Shed Additional Light on Pluto’s Atmosphere
    New Horizons succeeded in observing the first occultations of Pluto's atmosphere by ultraviolet stars, an important goal of the missions Pluto encounter. This illustration shows how New Horizons' Alice ultraviolet spectrometer instrument "watched" as two bright ultraviolet stars passed behind Pluto and its atmosphere. The light from each star dimmed as it moved through deeper layers of the atmosphere, absorbed by various gases and hazes. The observations were made approximately four hours after New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, when the spacecraft was about 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometers) beyond Pluto. Much like the solar occultation that Alice had observed a few hours before when it used sunlight to make similar measurements these stellar occultations provided information about the composition and structure of Pluto's atmosphere. Both stellar occultations revealed ultraviolet spectral fingerprints of nitrogen, hydrocarbons like methane and acetylene, and even haze, just as the solar occultation had done earlier. The results from the solar and stellar occultations are also consistent in terms of vertical pressure and temperature structure of Plutos upper atmosphere. This means that the upper atmosphere vertical profiles of nitrogen, methane, and the observed hydrocarbons are similar over many locations on Pluto. These results confirm findings from the Alice solar occultation that the upper atmospheric temperature is as much as 25 percent colder and thus more compact than what scientists predicted before New Horizons' encounter. This also confirms, albeit indirectly, the result from analysis and modeling of the Alice solar observation that the escape rate of nitrogen is about 1,000 times lower than expected before the flyby.
  • New Horizons Collects First Science on a Post-Pluto Object
    In April 2016, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft observed 1994 JR1, a 90-mile (145-kilometer) wide Kuiper Belt object (KBO) orbiting more than 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) from the sun, for the second time. Taken with the spacecrafts Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on April 7-8 from a distance of about 69 million miles (111 million kilometers), the images shatter New Horizons' own record for the closest-ever views of this KBO in November 2015, when New Horizons detected JR1 from 170 million miles (280 million kilometers) away. Combining the November 2015 and April 2016 observations allows scientists to pinpoint the location of JR1 to within 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles), far better than any small KBO. The more accurate orbit also allows the science team to dispel a theory that JR1 is a quasi-satellite of Pluto. From the closer vantage point of the April 2016 observations, the team also determined the object's rotation period, observing the changes in light reflected from JR1's surface to determine that it rotates once every 5.4 hours (or a JR1 day). The observations are great practice for possible close-up looks at about 20 more ancient Kuiper Belt objects that may come in the next few years, should NASA approve an extended mission. New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, making the first close-up observations of Pluto and its family of five moons. The spacecraft is on course for an ultra-close flyby of another Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019. Above, the first two of the 20 observations that New Horizons made of 1994 JR1 in April 2016. The Kuiper Belt object is the bright moving dot indicated by the arrow. The dots that do not move are background stars. The moving features in the top left and far right are internal camera reflections (a kind of selfie) caused by illumination by a very bright star just outside of LORRI's field of view; the one on the left shows the three arms that hold up LORRI's secondary mirror.
  • Icy Hydra
    The surface of Hydra, Plutos outermost small moon, is dominated by nearly pristine water ice confirming hints that scientists picked up in New Horizons images showing Hydras highly reflective surface. This compositional data (infrared spectra) was gathered with the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 150,000 miles (240,000 kilometers). It shows the unmistakable signature of crystalline water ice: a broad absorption from 1.50 to 1.60 microns and a narrower water-ice spectral feature at 1.65 microns. The Hydra spectrum is similar to that of Plutos largest moon, Charon, which is also dominated by crystalline water ice. But Hydras water-ice absorption bands are even deeper than Charons, suggesting that ice grains on Hydras surface are larger or reflect more light at certain angles than the grains on Charon. Hydra is thought to have formed in an icy debris disk produced when water-rich mantles were stripped from the two bodies that collided to form the Pluto-Charon binary some 4 billion years ago. Hydras deep water bands and high reflectance imply relatively little contamination by darker material that has accumulated on Charon's surface over the past 4 billion years. Why does Hydras ice seem to be cleaner than Charons? One theory is that micrometeorite impacts continually refresh the surface of Hydra by blasting off contaminants. This process would have been ineffective on the much larger Charon, whose much stronger gravity retains any debris created by these impacts.
  • Pluto: A Global Perspective
    NASAs New Horizons mission science team has produced this updated panchromatic (black-and-white) global map of Pluto. The map includes all resolved images of Plutos surface acquired between July 7-14, 2015, at pixel resolutions ranging from 18 miles (30 kilometers) on the Charon-facing hemisphere (left and right edges of the map) to 770 feet (235 meters) on the hemisphere facing New Horizons during the spacecrafts closest approach on July 14, 2015 (map center). The non-encounter hemisphere was seen from much greater range and is, therefore, in far less detail. The latest images woven into the map were sent back to Earth as recently as April 25, and the team will continue to add photos as the spacecraft transmits the rest of its stored Pluto encounter data. All encounter imagery is expected on Earth by early fall. The team is also working on improved color maps.
  • Elevation Map of Pluto’s Sunken ‘Heart’
    This shaded relief view of the region surrounding the left side of Plutos heart-shaped feature informally named Sputnik Planum shows that the vast expanse of the icy surface is on average 2 miles (3 kilometers) lower than the surrounding terrain. Angular blocks of water ice along the western edge of Sputnik Planum can be seen floating in the bright deposits of softer, denser solid nitrogen. Topographic maps of Pluto are produced from digital analysis of New Horizons stereo images acquired during the July 14, 2015 flyby. Such maps are derived from digital stereo-image mapping tools that measure the parallax or the difference in the apparent relative positions of individual features on the surface obtained at different times. Parallax displacements of high and low features are then used to directly estimate feature heights. These topographic maps are works in progress and artifacts are still present in the current version. The map is artificially illuminated from the south, rather than the generally northern solar lighting of landscape during the time of the flyby. One of the many advantages of digital terrain maps is that they can be illuminated from any direction to best bring out different features. North is up and the total relief in the scene is approximately 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the lowest to the highest features.
  • Pluto’s ‘Halo’ Craters
    Within Plutos informally named Vega Terra region is a field of eye-catching craters that looks like a cluster of bright halos scattered across a dark landscape. The region is far west of the hemisphere NASAs New Horizons spacecraft viewed during close approach last summer. The upper image in black and white sports several dozen haloed craters. The largest crater, at bottom-right, measures about 30 miles (50 kilometers) across. The craters bright walls and rims stand out from their dark floors and surrounding terrain, creating the halo effect. In the lower image, composition data from New Horizons Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) indicate a connection between the bright halos and distribution of methane ice, shown in false color as purple. The floors and terrain between craters show signs of water ice, colored in blue. Exactly why the bright methane ice settles on these crater rims and walls is a mystery; also puzzling is why this same effect doesnt occur broadly across Pluto. The upper view is a mosaic made from two separate images obtained by New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). A high-resolution strip taken at approximately 760 feet (232 meters) per pixel is overlain on a broader, low-resolution image taken at 2,910 feet (889 meters) per pixel. The images were obtained at ranges of 28,800 miles (46,400 kilometers) and 106,700 miles (171,700 kilometers) from Pluto, respectively, on July 14, 2015. The LEISA data came the same day, during the instruments highest-resolution scan of Pluto, with New Horizons 28,000 miles (45,500 kilometers) from Pluto, with a resolution of 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) per pixel.
  • The Icy ‘Spider’ on Pluto
    Sprawling across Plutos icy landscape is an unusual geological feature that resembles a giant spider. This enhanced color image was obtained by NASAs New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. The feature consists of at least six extensional fractures (indicated by white arrows in this annotated version) converging to a point near the center. The longest fractures are aligned roughly north-south, and the longest of all, the informally named Sleipnir Fossa, is more than 360 miles (580 kilometers) long. The fracture aligned east-west is shorter and reaches less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) long. To the north and west, the fractures extend across the mottled, rolling plains of the high northern latitudes, and to the south, they intercept and cut through the bladed terrain informally named Tartarus Dorsa. Curiously, the spiders legs noticeably expose red deposits below Plutos surface. New Horizons scientists think fractures seen elsewhere on Pluto, which tend to be aligned parallel to each other in long belts rather than intersecting with one another at a nexus, as this feature does are caused by global-scale extension of Plutos waterice crust. However, given the curious radiating pattern of the fractures forming the spider, it may instead be caused by a focused source of stress in the crust under the point where the fractures converge for example, due to material welling up from under the surface. The spider somewhat resembles radially fractured centers on Venus called novae (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA00150) seen by NASAs Magellan spacecraft, as well as the Pantheon Fossae formation seen by NASAs MESSENGER spacecraft on Mercury (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19410). This image was obtained by New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • The Icy ‘Spider’ on Pluto (annotated)
    Sprawling across Plutos icy landscape is an unusual geological feature that resembles a giant spider. This enhanced color image was obtained by NASAs New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. The feature consists of at least six extensional fractures, indicated by white arrows, converging to a point near the center. The longest fractures are aligned roughly north-south, and the longest of all, the informally named Sleipnir Fossa, is more than 360 miles (580 kilometers) long. The fracture aligned east-west is shorter and reaches less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) long. To the north and west, the fractures extend across the mottled, rolling plains of the high northern latitudes, and to the south, they intercept and cut through the bladed terrain informally named Tartarus Dorsa. Curiously, the spiders legs noticeably expose red deposits below Plutos surface. New Horizons scientists think fractures seen elsewhere on Pluto, which tend to be aligned parallel to each other in long belts rather than intersecting with one another at a nexus, as this feature does are caused by global-scale extension of Plutos waterice crust. However, given the curious radiating pattern of the fractures forming the spider, it may instead be caused by a focused source of stress in the crust under the point where the fractures converge for example, due to material welling up from under the surface. The spider somewhat resembles radially fractured centers on Venus called novae (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA00150) seen by NASAs Magellan spacecraft, as well as the Pantheon Fossae formation seen by NASAs MESSENGER spacecraft on Mercury (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19410). This image was obtained by New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • 'Blades' Across Pluto
    This global view of Pluto combines a Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) color scan and an image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), both obtained on July 13, 2015 the day before New Horizons closest approach. The MVIC scan was taken from a range of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers), at a resolution of 20 miles (32 kilometers) per pixel. The corresponding LORRI image was obtained from roughly the same range, but has a higher spatial resolution of 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel. The red outline marks the large area of mysterious, bladed terrain extending from the eastern section of the large feature informally named Tombaugh Regio.
  • Pluto's Bladed Terrain in 3-D
    One of the strangest landforms spotted by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft when it flew past Pluto last July was the "bladed" terrain just east of Tombaugh Regio, the informal name given to Pluto's large heart-shaped surface feature. The blades are the dominant feature of a broad area informally named Tartarus Dorsa. They align from north to south, reach hundreds of feet high and are typically spaced a few miles apart. This remarkable landform, unlike any other seen in our solar system, is perched on a much broader set of rounded ridges that are separated by flat valley floors. This amazing stereo view combines two images from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) taken about 14 minutes apart on July 14, 2015. The first was taken when New Horizons was 16,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, the second when the spacecraft was 10,000 miles (about 17,000 kilometers) away. Best resolution is approximately 1,000 feet (310 meters).
  • Pluto: On Frozen Pond
    NASAs New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when thanks to much higher pressure in Plutos atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world. This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Plutos informally named Sputnik Planum. Captured by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, the image shows details as small as about 430 feet (130 meters). At its widest point the possible lake appears to be about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.
  • Pluto's Haze
    This image of haze layers above Pluto's limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, white arrows indicate a haze layer about three miles (five kilometers) above the surface on the left, which has descended to the surface at the right.
  • Mountains, Craters and Plains
    New Horizons views of the informally named Sputnik Planum on Pluto (top) and the informally named Vulcan Planum on Charon (bottom). Both scale bars measure 20 miles (32 kilometers) long; illumination is from the left in both instances. The Sputnik Planum view is centered at 11N, 180E, and covers the bright, icy, geologically cellular plains. Here, the cells are defined by a network of interconnected troughs that crisscross these nitrogen-ice plains. At right, in the upper image, the cellular plains yield to pitted plains of southern Sputnik Planum. This observation was obtained by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) at a resolution of 1,050 feet (320 meters) per pixel. The Vulcan Planum view in the bottom panel is centered at 4S, 4E, and includes the "moated mountain" Clarke Mons just above the center of the image. As well as featuring impact craters and sinuous troughs, the water ice-rich plains display a range of surface textures, from smooth and grooved at left, to pitted and hummocky at right. This observation was obtained by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at a resolution of 525 feet (160 meters) per pixel.
  • Surface Diversity
    This enhanced color view of Pluto's surface diversity was created by merging Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) color imagery (650 meters per pixel) with Long Range Reconnaissance Imager panchromatic imagery (230 meters per pixel). At lower right, ancient, heavily cratered terrain is coated with dark, reddish tholins. At upper right, volatile ices filling the informally named Sputnik Planum have modified the surface, creating a chaos-like array of blocky mountains. Volatile ice also occupies a few nearby deep craters, and in some areas the volatile ice is pocked with arrays of small sublimation pits. At left, and across the bottom of the scene, gray-white CH4 ice deposits modify tectonic ridges, the rims of craters, and north-facing slopes. The scene in this image is 260 miles (420 kilometers) wide and 140 miles (225 kilometers) from top to bottom; north is to the upper left.
  • What's Eating at Pluto?
    Scientists on NASA's New Horizons mission have discovered what looks like a giant bite-mark on the planet's surface. In this image, north is up. The southern portion of the left inset above shows the cratered plateau uplands informally named Vega Terra (note that all feature names are informal). This terrain is separated from the young, nearly uncratered, mottled plains of Piri Planitia in the center of the image by a generally north-facing jagged scarp called Piri Rupes. The scarp breaks up into isolated mesas in several places. Cutting diagonally across Piri Planitia is the long extensional fault of Inanna Fossa, which stretches eastward 370 miles (600 kilometers) from here to the western edge of the great nitrogen ice plains of Sputnik Planum. Compositional data from the New Horizons spacecraft's Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument, shown in the right inset, indicate that the plateau uplands south of Piri Rupes are rich in methane ice (shown in false color as purple). Scientists speculate that sublimation of methane may be causing the plateau material to erode along the face of the scarp cliffs, causing them to retreat south and leave the plains of Piri Planitia in their wake. Compositional data also show that the surface of Piri Planitia is more enriched in water ice (shown in false color as blue) than the plateau uplands, which may indicate that Piri Planitia's surface is made of water ice bedrock, on top of which the layer of retreating methane ice had been sitting. Because the surface of Pluto is so cold, the water ice behaves like rock and is immobile. The light/dark mottled pattern of Piri Planitia in the left inset is reflected in the composition map, with the lighter areas corresponding to areas richer in methane these may be remnants of methane that have not yet sublimated away entirely. The inset at left shows about 650 feet (200 meters) per pixel; the image measures approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) long by 255 miles (410 kilometers) wide. It was obtained by New Horizons at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.The LEISA data at right was gathered when the spacecraft was about 29,000 miles (47,000 kilometers) from Pluto; best resolution is 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) per pixel.
  • Methane Snow on Pluto's Peaks
    A chain of snow-capped mountains stretches across the dark expanse on Pluto informally named Cthulhu Regio. Cthulhu (pronounced "k-thu-lu") extends nearly halfway around Pluto's equator, starting to the west of the great nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum (see color image of Pluto below). Cthulhu measures approximately 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers) long and 450 miles (750 kilometers) wide, and with an area of more than 700,000 square miles (1.8 million square kilometers) it's a little larger than Alaska. Cthulhu's appearance is characterized by a dark surface, which scientists think is due to it being covered by a layer of dark tholins - complex molecules that form when methane is exposed to sunlight. Cthulhu's geology exhibits a wide variety of landscapes, from mountainous, to smooth, to heavily cratered and fractured. The enhanced color image shown as the left-hand inset below reveals a mountain range located in southeast Cthulhu that measures 260 miles (420 kilometers) long. The range is situated among craters, with narrow valleys separating its peaks. The upper slopes of the highest peaks are coated with a bright material that contrasts sharply with the dark red color of the surrounding plains. Scientists think this bright material could be predominantly methane that has condensed as an ice onto the peaks from Pluto's atmosphere. That this material coats only the upper slopes of the peaks suggests methane ice may act like water in Earth's atmosphere, condensing as frost at high altitude. Compositional data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASAs New Horizons spacecraft, shown in the right-most inset, indicates that the location of the bright ice on the mountain peaks correlates almost exactly with the distribution of methane ice (shown in false color as purple) on the mountains. The resolution of the enhanced color image is about 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. The image measures approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) long by 140 miles (225 kilometers) wide. It was obtained by New Horizons at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.
  • The Frozen Canyons of Pluto's North Pole
    This ethereal scene captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft tells yet another story of Pluto's diversity of geological and compositional features - this time in an enhanced color image of the north polar area. Long canyons run vertically across the polar area - part of the informally named Lowell Regio, named for Percival Lowell, who founded Lowell Observatory and initiated the search that led to Pluto's discovery. The widest of the canyons is about 45 miles (75 kilometers) wide and runs close to the north pole. Roughly parallel subsidiary canyons to the east and west are approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. The degraded walls of these canyons appear to be much older than the more sharply defined canyon systems elsewhere on Pluto, perhaps because the polar canyons are older and made of weaker material. These canyons also appear to represent evidence for an ancient period of tectonics. A shallow, winding valley runs the entire length of the canyon floor. To the east of these canyons, another valley winds toward the bottom-right corner of the image. The nearby terrain, at bottom right, appears to have been blanketed by material that obscures small-scale topographic features, creating a "softened" appearance for the landscape. Large, irregularly-shaped pits reach 45 miles (70 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, scarring the region. These pits may indicate locations where subsurface ice has melted or sublimated from below, causing the ground to collapse. The color and composition of this region - shown in enhanced color - also are unusual. High elevations show up in a distinctive yellow, not seen elsewhere on Pluto. The yellowish terrain fades to a uniform bluish gray at lower elevations and latitudes. New Horizons' infrared measurements show methane ice is abundant across Lowell Regio, and there is relatively little nitrogen ice. One possibility is that the yellow terrains may correspond to older methane deposits that have been more processed by solar radiation than the bluer terrain. This image was obtained by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. The lower edge of the image measures about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • The Frozen Canyons of Pluto's North Pole (Annotated)
    This ethereal scene captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft tells yet another story of Pluto's diversity of geological and compositional featuresthis time in an enhanced color image of the north polar area. Long canyons run vertically across the polar areapart of the informally named Lowell Regio, named for Percival Lowell, who founded Lowell Observatory and initiated the search that led to Pluto's discovery. The widest of the canyons (marked in yellow) is about 45 miles (75 kilometers) wide and runs close to the north pole. Roughly parallel subsidiary canyons to the east and west (in green) are approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. The degraded walls of these canyons appear to be much older than the more sharply defined canyon systems elsewhere on Pluto, perhaps because the polar canyons are older and made of weaker material. These canyons also appear to represent evidence for an ancient period of tectonics. A shallow, winding valley (in blue) runs the entire length of the canyon floor. To the east of these canyons, another valley (pink) winds toward the bottom-right corner of the image. The nearby terrain, at bottom right, appears to have been blanketed by material that obscures small-scale topographic features, creating a "softened" appearance for the landscape. Large, irregularly-shaped pits (in red), reach 45 miles (70 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, scarring the region. These pits may indicate locations where subsurface ice has melted or sublimated from below, causing the ground to collapse. The color and composition of this region shown in enhanced color also are unusual. High elevations show up in a distinctive yellow, not seen elsewhere on Pluto. The yellowish terrain fades to a uniform bluish gray at lower elevations and latitudes. New Horizons' infrared measurements show methane ice is abundant across Lowell Regio, and there is relatively little nitrogen ice. One possibility is that the yellow terrains may correspond to older methane deposits that have been more processed by solar radiation than the bluer terrain. This image was obtained by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image resolution is approximately 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. The lower edge of the image measures about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long. It was obtained at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • Pluto’s ‘Hulk-like’ Moon Charon: A Possible Ancient Ocean?
    Images from NASAs New Horizons mission suggest that Plutos largest moon, Charon, once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing out on the moons surface and causing it to stretch and fracture on a massive scale. The side of Charon viewed by the passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015 is characterized by a system of pull apart tectonic faults, which are expressed as ridges, scarps and valleysthe latter sometimes reaching more than 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) deep. Charons tectonic landscape shows that, somehow, the moon expanded in its past, and like Bruce Banner tearing his shirt as he becomes the Incredible Hulk Charons surface fractured as it stretched. Charons outer layer is primarily water ice. When the moon was young this layer was warmed by the decay of radioactive elements, as well as Charons own internal heat of formation. Scientists say Charon could have been warm enough to cause the water ice to melt deep down, creating a subsurface ocean. But as Charon cooled over time, this ocean would have frozen and expanded (as happens when water freezes), pushing the surface outward and producing the massive chasms we see today. The top segment focuses on a section of the feature informally named Serenity Chasma, part of a vast equatorial belt of chasms on Charon. In fact, this system of chasms is one of the longest seen anywhere in the solar system, running at least 1,100 miles (about 1,800 kilometers) long and reaching 4.5 miles (7.5 kilometers) deep. By comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 kilometers) long and just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep. The lower portion of the image shows color-coded topography of the same scene. Measurements of the shape of this feature tell scientists that Charons water-ice layer may have been at least partially liquid in its early history, and has since refrozen. This image was obtained by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons. North is up; illumination is from the top-left of the image. The image resolution is about 1,290 feet (394 meters) per pixel. The image measures 240 miles (386 kilometers) long and 110 miles (175 kilometers) wide. It was obtained at a range of approximately 48,900 miles (78,700 kilometers) from Charon, about an hour and 40 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Charon on July 14, 2015.
  • Putting Pluto’s Geology on the Map
    This geological map covers a portion of Plutos surface that measures 1,290 miles (2,070 kilometers) from top to bottom, and includes the vast nitrogen-ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum and surrounding terrain. The key explains the colors that represent different geological terrains. Each terrain, or unit, is defined by its texture and morphology smooth, pitted, craggy, hummocky or ridged, for example. How well a unit can be defined depends on the resolution of the images that cover it. All of the terrain in this map has been imaged at a resolution of approximately 1,050 feet (320 meters) per pixel or better, meaning scientists can map units with relative confidence. The various blue and greenish units that fill the center of the map represent different textures seen across Sputnik Planum, from the cellular terrain in the center and north, to the smooth and pitted plains in the south. The black lines represent the troughs that mark the boundaries of cellular regions in the nitrogen ice. The purple unit represents the chaotic, blocky mountain ranges that line Sputniks western border, and the pink unit represents the scattered, floating hills at its eastern edge. The possible cryovolcanic feature informally named Wright Mons is mapped in red in the southern corner of the map. The rugged highlands of the informally named Cthulhu Regio is mapped in dark brown along the western edge, and is pockmarked by many large impact craters, mapped in yellow. The base map for this geologic map is a mosaic of 12 images obtained by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at a resolution of 1,280 feet (about 390 meters) per pixel. The mosaic was obtained at a range of approximately 48,000 miles (77,300 kilometers) from Pluto, about an hour and 40 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • Putting Pluto’s Geology on the Map
    This geological map covers a portion of Plutos surface that measures 1,290 miles (2,070 kilometers) from top to bottom, and includes the vast nitrogen-ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum and surrounding terrain. The map is overlain with colors that represent different geological terrains. Each terrain, or unit, is defined by its texture and morphology smooth, pitted, craggy, hummocky or ridged, for example. How well a unit can be defined depends on the resolution of the images that cover it. All of the terrain in this map has been imaged at a resolution of approximately 1,050 feet (320 meters) per pixel or better, meaning scientists can map units with relative confidence. The various blue and greenish units that fill the center of the map represent different textures seen across Sputnik Planum, from the cellular terrain in the center and north, to the smooth and pitted plains in the south. The black lines represent the troughs that mark the boundaries of cellular regions in the nitrogen ice. The purple unit represents the chaotic, blocky mountain ranges that line Sputniks western border, and the pink unit represents the scattered, floating hills at its eastern edge. The possible cryovolcanic feature informally named Wright Mons is mapped in red in the southern corner of the map. The rugged highlands of the informally named Cthulhu Regio is mapped in dark brown along the western edge, and is pockmarked by many large impact craters, mapped in yellow. The base map for this geologic map is a mosaic of 12 images obtained by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at a resolution of 1,280 feet (about 390 meters) per pixel. The mosaic was obtained at a range of approximately 48,000 miles (77,300 kilometers) from Pluto, about an hour and 40 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach on July 14, 2015.
  • Pluto’s Mysterious, Floating Hills
    The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear to carry an intriguing cargo: numerous, isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Plutos surrounding uplands. These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across, according to images and data from NASAs New Horizons mission. The hills, which are in the vast ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum within Plutos heart, are likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planums western border. They are yet another example of Plutos fascinating and abundant geological activity. Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earths Arctic Ocean. The hills are likely fragments of the rugged uplands that have broken away and are being carried by the nitrogen glaciers into Sputnik Planum. Chains of the drifting hills are formed along the flow paths of the glaciers. When the hills enter the cellular terrain of central Sputnik Planum, they become subject to the convective motions of the nitrogen ice, and are pushed to the edges of the cells, where the hills cluster in groups reaching up to 12 miles (20 kilometers) across. At the northern end of the image, the feature informally named Challenger Colles honoring the crew of the lost space shuttle Challenger appears to be an especially large accumulation of these hills, measuring 37 by 22 miles (60 by 35 kilometers). This feature is located near the boundary with the uplands, away from the cellular terrain, and may represent a location where hills have been beached due to the nitrogen ice being especially shallow. The image shows the inset in context next to a larger view that covers most of Plutos encounter hemisphere. The inset was obtained by New Horizons Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) instrument. North is up; illumination is from the top-left of the image. The image resolution is about 1050 feet (320 meters) per pixel. The image measures a little over 300 miles (almost 500 kilometers) long and about 210 miles (340 kilometers) wide. It was obtained at a range of approximately 9,950 miles (16,000 kilometers) from Pluto, about 12 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.
  • Charon’s Night Side
    After its close approach to Pluto in July 2015, NASAs New Horizons spacecraft snapped this hauntingly beautiful image of the night side of Plutos largest moon, Charon. Only an imager on the far side of Pluto could catch such a view, with a bright, thin sliver of Charon near the lower left illuminated by the sun. Night has fallen over the rest of this side of Charon, yet despite the lack of sunlight over most of the surface, Charons nighttime landscapes are still faintly visible by light softly reflected off Pluto, just as Earthshine lights up a new moon each month. Charon is 750 miles (1,214 kilometers) in diameter, approximately as wide as Texas. Scientists on the New Horizons team are using this and similar images to map portions of Charon otherwise not visible during the flyby. This includes Charons south pole - toward the top of this image - which entered polar night in 1989 and will not see sunlight again until 2107. Charons polar temperatures drop to near absolute zero during this long winter. This combination of 16 one-second exposures was taken by New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 2:30 UT on July 17, 2015, nearly three days after closest approach to Pluto and Charon, from a range of 1.9 million miles (3.1 million kilometers).
  • Pluto’s Widespread Water Ice
    Data from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft point to more prevalent water ice on Plutos surface than previously thought. This false-color image, derived from observations in infrared light by the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument, shows where the spectral features of water ice are abundant on Plutos surface. It is based on two LEISA scans of Pluto obtained on July 14, 2015, from a range of about 67,000 miles (108,000 kilometers). The scans, taken about 15 minutes apart, were stitched into a combined multispectral Pluto data cube covering the full hemisphere visible to New Horizons as it flew past Pluto. A data cube like this is a three-dimensional array in which an image of Pluto is formed at each LEISA-sensitive wavelength. Water ice is Pluto's crustal "bedrock, the canvas on which its more volatile ices paint their seasonally changing patterns. Initial New Horizons maps of Pluto's water ice bedrock compared LEISA spectra with a pure water ice template spectrum, resulting in the map at left. A disadvantage of that technique is that water ice's spectral signature is easily masked by methane ice, so that map was only sensitive to areas that were especially rich in water ice and/or depleted in methane. The much more sensitive method used on the right involves modeling the contributions of Pluto's various ices all together. This method, too, has limitations in that it can only map ices included in the model, but the team is continually adding more data and improving the model. The new map shows exposed water ice to be considerably more widespread across Pluto's surface than was previously known an important discovery. But despite its much greater sensitivity, the map still shows little or no water ice in the informally named places called Sputnik Planum (the left or western region of Plutos heart) and Lowell Regio (far north on the encounter hemisphere). This indicates that at least in these regions, Pluto's icy bedrock is well hidden beneath a thick blanket of other ices such as methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide.
  • Pluto's Blue Atmosphere in the Infrared
    This image from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is the first look at Pluto's atmosphere in infrared wavelengths, and the first image of the atmosphere made with data from the New Horizons Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument. In this image, sunlight is coming from above and behind Pluto. The image was captured on July 14, 2015, while New Horizons was about 112,000 miles (180,000 kilometers) away. The image covers LEISA's full spectral range (1.25 to 2.5 microns), which is divided into thirds, with the shortest third being put into the blue channel, middle third into the green channel, and longest into the red channel. North in this image is around the 10 oclock position. The blue ring around Pluto is caused by sunlight scattering from haze particles common in Pluto's atmosphere; scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles - a fraction of a micrometer in size - which scatter sunlight to make the blue haze. The new infrared image, when combined with earlier images made at shorter, visible wavelengths, gives scientists new clues into the size distribution of the particles. The whitish patches around Plutos limb in this image are sunlight bouncing off more reflective or smoother areas on Pluto's surface - with the largest patch being the western section of the informally named Cthulhu Regio. Future LEISA observations returned to Earth should capture the remainder of the haze, missing from the lower section of the image.
  • Pluto’s Haze in Bands of Blue
    This processed image is the highest-resolution color look yet at the haze layers in Plutos atmosphere. Shown in approximate true color, the picture was constructed from a mosaic of four panchromatic images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) splashed with Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) four-color filter data, all acquired by NASAs New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. The resolution is 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) per pixel; the sun illuminates the scene from the right. Scientists believe the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules in Plutos atmosphere, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles, a fraction of a micrometer in size, and scatter sunlight to make the bright blue haze seen in this image. As they settle down through the atmosphere, the haze particles form numerous intricate, horizontal layers, some extending for hundreds of miles around Pluto. The haze layers extend to altitudes of over 200 kilometers (120 miles). Adding to the stark beauty of this image are mountains on Plutos limb (on the right, near the 4 oclock position), surface features just within the limb to the right, and crepuscular rays (dark finger-like shadows to the left) extending from Plutos topographic features.
  • Wright’s Stuff
    Scientists with NASAs New Horizons mission have assembled the highest-resolution color view of one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of the distant planet by the passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015. At about 90 miles (150 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) high, the feature informally named Wright Mons is enormous. If it is in fact a volcano, as suspected, it would be the largest such feature discovered in the outer solar system. Mission scientists are intrigued by the sparse distribution of red material in the image and wonder why it is not more widespread. Also perplexing is that there is only one identified impact crater on Wright Mons itself, telling scientists that the surface (as well as some of the crust underneath) was created relatively recently. This is turn may indicate that Wright Mons was volcanically active late in Plutos history. This composite image includes pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecrafts Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a range of about 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers), showing features as small as 1,500 feet (450 meters) across. Sprinkled across the LORRI mosaic is enhanced color data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) gathered about 20 minutes after the LORRI snapshots were taken, from a range of 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) and at a resolution of about 2,100 feet (650 meters) per pixel. The entire scene is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across.
  • Pluto's Icy Plains Captured in Highest-Resolution Views from New Horizons
    NASAs New Horizons spacecraft continues to transmit the sharpest views of Pluto that it obtained (and recorded) during its flyby of the distant planet on July 14, 2015. The newest image, returned on Dec. 24, 2015, extends New Horizons highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the very center of the informally named Sputnik Planum, and nearly completes the set of highest-resolution images taken by New Horizons last July. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel revealing features smaller than half a city block on Plutos surface. The images shown here form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and more than 400 miles (700 kilometers) long, trending from the northwestern shoreline of Sputnik Planum and out across its icy plains. The images illustrate the polygonal or cellular pattern of the plains, which are thought to result from the convective churning of a deep layer solid, but mobile, nitrogen ice. The surface of Sputnik Planum appears darker toward the shore (at top), possibly implying a change in composition or surface texture. The occasional raised, darker blocks at the cell edges are probably dirty water icebergs floating in denser solid nitrogen. The pictures were taken with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, from a range of approximately 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) over a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto. The images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Plutos cousin Triton, Neptunes large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.
  • Pluto’s Icy Plains Captured in Highest-Resolution Views from New Horizons
    NASAs New Horizons spacecraft continues to transmit the sharpest views of Pluto that it obtained (and recorded) during its flyby of the distant planet on July 14, 2015. The newest image, returned on Dec. 24, 2015, extends New Horizons highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the very center of the informally named Sputnik Planum, and nearly completes the set of highest-resolution images taken by New Horizons last July. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel revealing features smaller than half a city block on Plutos surface. The images shown here form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and more than 400 miles (700 kilometers) long, trending from the northwestern shoreline of Sputnik Planum and out across its icy plains. The images illustrate the polygonal or cellular pattern of the plains, which are thought to result from the convective churning of a deep layer solid, but mobile, nitrogen ice. The surface of Sputnik Planum appears darker toward the shore (at top), possibly implying a change in composition or surface texture. The occasional raised, darker blocks at the cell edges are probably dirty water icebergs floating in denser solid nitrogen. The pictures were taken with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, from a range of approximately 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) over a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto. The images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Plutos cousin Triton, Neptunes large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.
  • Pluto's Icy Plains Captured in Highest-Resolution Views from New Horizons
    NASAs New Horizons spacecraft continues to transmit the sharpest views of Pluto that it obtained (and recorded) during its flyby of the distant planet on July 14, 2015. The newest image, returned on Dec. 24, 2015, extends New Horizons highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the very center of the informally named Sputnik Planum, and nearly completes the set of highest-resolution images taken by New Horizons last July. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel revealing features smaller than half a city block on Plutos surface. The images shown here form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide and more than 400 miles (700 kilometers) long, trending from the northwestern shoreline of Sputnik Planum and out across its icy plains. The images illustrate the polygonal or cellular pattern of the plains, which are thought to result from the convective churning of a deep layer solid, but mobile, nitrogen ice. The surface of Sputnik Planum appears darker toward the shore (at top), possibly implying a change in composition or surface texture. The occasional raised, darker blocks at the cell edges are probably dirty water icebergs floating in denser solid nitrogen. The pictures were taken with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, from a range of approximately 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) over a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto. The images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Plutos cousin Triton, Neptunes large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.
  • Pluto's Moon Nix, Half Illuminated
    This recently received panchromatic image of Pluto's small satellite Nix taken by the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons is one of the best images of Pluto's third-largest moon generated by the NASA mission. Taken on July 14, 2015, at a range of about 14,000 miles (23,000 kilometers) from Nix, the illuminated surface is about 12 miles (19 kilometers) by 29 miles (47 kilometers). The unique perspective of this image provides new details about Nix's geologic history and impact record.
  • Zigzagging across Pluto
    This high-resolution swath of Pluto (right) sweeps over the cratered plains at the west of the New Horizons encounter hemisphere and across numerous prominent faults, skimming the eastern margin of the dark, forbidding region informally known as Cthulhu Regio, and finally passing over the mysterious, possibly cryovolcanic edifice Wright Mons, before reaching the terminator or day-night line. Among the many notable details shown are the overlapping and infilling relationships between units of the relatively smooth, bright volatile ices from Sputnik Planum (at the edge of the mosaic) and the dark edge or shore of Cthulhu. The pictures in this mosaic were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) in ride-along mode with the LEISA spectrometer, which accounts for the zigzag or step pattern. Taken shortly before New Horizons July 14 closest approach to Pluto, details as small as 500 yards (500 meters) can be seen. NOTE: Click on the image and ZOOM IN for optimal viewing.
  • Pluto’s Close-up, Now in Color
    This enhanced color mosaic combines some of the sharpest views of Pluto that NASAs New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its July 14 flyby. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel revealing features smaller than half a city block on Plutos surface. Lower resolution color data (at about 2,066 feet, or 630 meters, per pixel) were added to create this new image. The images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide, trending (top to bottom) from the edge of badlands northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, onto the shoreline of Plutos heart feature, and just into its icy plains. They combine pictures from the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) taken approximately 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with from a range of only 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) with color data (in near-infrared, red and blue) gathered by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) 25 minutes before the LORRI pictures. The wide variety of cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains seen here gives scientists and the public alike a breathtaking, super-high-resolution color window into Plutos geology.
  • Zooming in on Pluto’s Pattern of Pits
    On July 14, 2015, the telescopic camera on NASAs New Horizons spacecraft took the highest resolution images ever obtained of the intricate pattern of pits across a section of Plutos prominent heart-shaped region, informally named Tombaugh Regio. Mission scientists believe these mysterious indentations may form through a combination of ice fracturing and evaporation. The scarcity of overlying impact craters in this area also leads scientists to conclude that these pits typically hundreds of yards across and tens of yards deep formed relatively recently. Their alignment provides clues about the ice flow and the exchange of nitrogen and other volatile materials between the surface and the atmosphere. The image is part of a sequence taken by New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft passed within 9,550 miles (15,400 kilometers) of Plutos surface, just 13 minutes before the time of closest approach. The small box on the global view shows the section of the region imaged in the southeast corner of the giant ice sheet informally named Sputnik Planum. The magnified view is 50-by-50 miles (80-by-80 kilometers) across. The large ring-like structure near the bottom right of the magnified view -- and the smaller one near the bottom left -- may be remnant craters. The upper-left quadrant of the image shows the border between the relatively smooth Sputnik Planum ice sheet and the pitted area, with a series of hills forming slightly inside this unusual shoreline.
  • New Horizons' Very Best View of Pluto (movie)
    This movie is composed of the sharpest views of Pluto that NASAs New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its flyby of the distant planet on July 14, 2015. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel revealing features smaller than half a city block on Plutos diverse surface. The images include a wide variety of spectacular, cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains giving scientists and the public alike a breathtaking, super-high resolution window on Plutos geology. The images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide trending from Plutos jagged horizon about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, onto the shoreline of Sputnik Planum and then across its icy plains. They were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, over a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual point and shoot, LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images. All told, the images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Plutos cousin Triton, Neptunes large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989. Watch movie
  • New Horizons’ Very Best View of Pluto (Mosiac)
    This mosaic is composed of the sharpest views of Pluto that NASAs New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its flyby of the distant planet on July 14, 2015. The pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel revealing features smaller than half a city block on Plutos diverse surface. The images include a wide variety of spectacular, cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains giving scientists and the public alike a breathtaking, super-high resolution window on Plutos geology. The images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide trending from Plutos jagged horizon about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, onto the shoreline of Sputnik Planum and then across its icy plains. They were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, over a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual point and shoot, LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images. All told, the images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons obtained, and five times better than the best images of Plutos cousin Triton, Neptunes large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.
  • The Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum
    In this highest-resolution image from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft, great blocks of Plutos water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains. Some mountain sides appear coated in dark material, while other sides are bright. Several sheer faces appear to show crustal layering, perhaps related to the layers seen in some of Plutos crater walls. Other materials appear crushed between the mountains, as if these great blocks of water ice, some standing as much as 1.5 miles high, were jostled back and forth. The mountains end abruptly at the shoreline of the informally named Sputnik Planum, where the soft, nitrogen-rich ices of the plain form a nearly level surface, broken only by the fine trace work of striking, cellular boundaries and the textured surface of the plains ices (which is possibly related to sunlight-driven ice sublimation). This view is about 50 miles wide. The top of the image is to Plutos northwest. These images were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, in a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual point and shoot, LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images.
  • Layered Craters and Icy Plains
    This highest-resolution image from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft reveals new details of Plutos rugged, icy cratered plains. Notice the layering in the interior walls of many craters (the large crater at upper right is a good example) layers in geology usually mean an important change in composition or event but at the moment New Horizons team members do not know if they are seeing local, regional or global layering. The darker crater in the lower center is apparently younger than the others, because dark material ejected from within its ejecta blanket have not been erased and can still be made out. The origin of the many dark linear features trending roughly vertically in the bottom half of the image is under debate, but may be tectonic. Most of the craters seen here lie within the 155-mile (250-kilometer)-wide Burney Basin, whose outer rim or ring forms the line of hills or low mountains at bottom. The basin is informally named after Venetia Burney, the English schoolgirl who first proposed the name Pluto for the newly discovered planet in 1930. The top of the image is to Plutos northwest. These images were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, in a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual point and shoot, LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images.
  • Pluto’s Badlands
    This highest-resolution image from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft shows how erosion and faulting has sculpted this portion of Plutos icy crust into rugged badlands. The prominent 1.2-mile-high cliff at the top, running from left to upper right, is part of a great canyon system that stretches for hundreds of miles across Plutos northern hemisphere. New Horizons team members think that the mountains in the middle are made of water ice, but have been modified by the movement of nitrogen or other exotic ice glaciers over long periods of time, resulting in a muted landscape of rounded peaks and intervening sets of short ridges. At the bottom of this 50-mile-wide image, the terrain transforms dramatically into a fractured and finely broken up floor at the northwest margin of the giant ice plain informally called Sputnik Planum. The top of the image is to Plutos northwest. These images were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, in a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 just about 15 minutes before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual point and shoot, LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images.
  • A Day on Pluto
    On approach to Pluto in July 2015, the cameras on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured the planet rotating over the course of a full Pluto day. The best available images of each side of Pluto taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation. Plutos day is 6.4 Earth days long. The images were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera as the distance between New Horizons and Pluto decreased from 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) on July 7 to only 400,000 miles (about 645,000 kilometers) on July 13. The more distant images contribute to the view at the 3 o'clock position, with the top of the heart-shaped, informally named Tombaugh Regio slipping out of view and giving way to the side of Pluto that was facing away from New Horizons during closest approach on July 14. The side New Horizons saw in most detail what the mission team calls the encounter hemisphere - is at the 6 o'clock position. These images and others like them reveal many details about Pluto, including the differences between the encounter hemisphere and the so-called far side hemisphere seen only at lower resolution. Dimples in the bottom (south) edge of Pluto's disk are artifacts of the way the images were combined to create these composites.
  • A Day on Charon
    On approach to the Pluto system in July 2015, the cameras on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured images of the largest of Pluto's five moons, Charon, rotating over the course of a full day. The best currently available images of each side of Charon taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation of the moon. Charon - like Pluto - rotates once every 6.4 Earth days. The photos were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera from July 7-13, as New Horizons closed in over a range of 6.4 million miles (10.2 million kilometers). The more distant images contribute to the view at the 9 o'clock position, with few of the signature surface features (such as the cratered uplands, canyons, or rolling plains of the informally named Vulcan Planum) visible. The side New Horizons saw in most detail, during closest approach on July 14, 2015, is at the 12 o'clock position. These images and others like them reveal many details about Charon, including how similar looking the encounter hemisphere is to the so-called "far side" hemisphere seen only at low resolution - which is the opposite of the situation at Pluto. Dimples in the bottom (south) edge of Charon's disk are artifacts of the way the New Horizons images were combined to create these composites.
  • Ice Volcanoes on Pluto?
    The informally named feature Wright Mons, located south of Sputnik Planum on Pluto, is an unusual feature that's about 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide and 13,000 feet (4 kilometers) high. It displays a summit depression (visible in the center of the image) that's approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) across, with a distinctive hummocky texture on its sides. The rim of the summit depression also shows concentric fracturing. New Horizons scientists believe that this mountain and another, Piccard Mons, could have been formed by the 'cryovolcanic' eruption of ices from beneath Pluto's surface.
  • Ice Volcanoes and Topography
    Scientists using New Horizons images of Pluto's surface to make 3-D topographic maps have discovered that two of Plutos mountains, informally named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, could possibly be ice volcanoes. The color is shown to depict changes in elevation, with blue indicating lower terrain and brown showing higher elevation; green terrains are at intermediate heights.
  • Craters of All Ages and Sizes
    Locations of more than 1,000 craters mapped on Pluto by NASA's New Horizons mission indicate a wide range of surface ages, which likely means that Pluto has been geologically active throughout its history.
  • Merged Bodies
    New Horizons data indicates that at least two (and possibly all four) of Pluto's small moons may be the result of mergers between still smaller moons. If this discovery is borne out with further analysis, it could provide important new clues to the formation of the Pluto system.
  • Spinning Moons
    Most inner moons in the solar system keep one face pointed toward their central planet; this animation shows that certainly isn't the case with the small moons of Pluto, which behave like spinning tops. Pluto is shown at center with, in order, from smaller to wider orbit: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, Hydra. View MP4
  • Pluto's Pits
    New Horizons cameras have spied swarms of mysterious "pits" across the informally named Sputnik Planum. Scientists believe the pits may form through a combination of sublimation and ice fracturing.
  • Ice Volcanoes and Topography (no captions)
    Scientists using New Horizons images of Pluto's surface to make 3-D topographic maps have discovered that two of Plutos mountains, informally named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, could possibly be ice volcanoes. The color is shown to depict changes in elevation, with blue indicating lower terrain and brown showing higher elevation; green terrains are at intermediate heights.
  • A Full View of Pluto's Stunning Crescent
    In September, the New Horizons team released a stunning but incomplete image of Pluto's crescent. Thanks to new processing work by the science team, New Horizons is releasing the entire, breathtaking image of Pluto. This image was made just 15 minutes after New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, as the spacecraft looked back at Pluto toward the sun. The wide-angle perspective of this view shows the deep haze layers of Pluto's atmosphere extending all the way around Pluto, revealing the silhouetted profiles of rugged plateaus on the night (left) side. The shadow of Pluto cast on its atmospheric hazes can also be seen at the uppermost part of the disk. On the sunlit side of Pluto (right), the smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum is flanked to the west (above, in this orientation) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. Below (east) of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen high-altitude layers of haze in Pluto's tenuous atmosphere. The horizontal streaks in the sky beyond Pluto are stars, smeared out by the motion of the camera as it tracked Pluto. The image was taken with New Horizons' Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto. The resolution is 700 meters (0.4 miles).
  • Mapping Pluto's 'Broken Heart'
    In addition to transmitting new high-resolution images and other data on the familiar close-approach hemispheres of Pluto and Charon, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is also returning images - such as this one - to improve maps of other regions. This image was taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the morning of July 13, 2015, from a range of 1.03 million miles (1.7 million kilometers) and has a resolution of 5.1 miles (8.3 kilometers) per pixel. It provides fascinating new details to help the science team map the informally named Krun Macula (the prominent dark spot at the bottom of the image) and the complex terrain east and northeast of Pluto's "heart" (Tombaugh Regio). Pluto's north pole is on the planet's disk at the 12 o'clock position of this image.
  • The Youngest Crater on Charon?
    New Horizons scientists have discovered a striking contrast between one of the fresh craters on Pluto's largest moon Charon and a neighboring crater dotting the moon's Pluto-facing hemisphere. The crater, informally named Organa, caught scientists' attention as they were studying New Horizons' highest-resolution infrared compositional scan of Charon. Organa and portions of the surrounding material ejected from it show infrared absorption at wavelengths of about 2.2 microns, indicating that the crater is rich in frozen ammonia and, from what scientists have seen so far, unique on Pluto's largest moon. The infrared spectrum of nearby Skywalker crater, for example, is similar to the rest of Charon's craters and surface, with features dominated by ordinary water ice. This composite image is based on observations from the New Horizons Ralph/LEISA instrument made at 10:25 UT (6:25 a.m. EDT) on July 14, 2015, when New Horizons was 50,000 miles (81,000 kilometers) from Charon. The spatial resolution is 3 miles (5 kilometers) per pixel. The LEISA data were downlinked Oct. 1-4, 2015, and processed into a map of Charon's 2.2 micron ammonia-ice absorption band. Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) panchromatic images used as the background in this composite were taken about 8:33 UT (4:33 a.m. EDT) July 14 at a resolution of 0.6 miles (0.9 kilometers) per pixel and downlinked Oct. 5-6. The ammonia absorption map from LEISA is shown in green on the LORRI image. The region covered by the yellow box is 174 miles across (280 kilometers). Click here for a non-annotated version.
  • Pluto in 3-D
    Global stereo mapping of Pluto's surface is now possible, as images taken from multiple directions are downlinked from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. Stereo images will eventually provide an accurate topographic map of most of the hemisphere of Pluto seen by New Horizons during the July 14 flyby, which will be key to understanding Pluto's geological history. This example, which requires red/blue stereo glasses for viewing, shows a region 180 miles (300 kilometers) across, centered near longitude 130 E, latitude 20 N (the red square in the global context image). North is to the upper left. The image shows an ancient, heavily cratered region of Pluto, dotted with low hills and cut by deep fractures, which indicate extension of Pluto's crust. Analysis of these stereo images shows that the steep fracture in the upper left of the image is about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) deep, and the craters in the lower right part of the image are up to 1.3 miles (2.1 km) deep. Smallest visible details are about 0.4 miles (0.6 kilometers) across.
  • Kerberos Revealed
    This image of Kerberos was created by combining four individual Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) pictures taken on July 14, 2015, approximately seven hours before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto, at a range of 245,600 miles (396,100 km) from Kerberos. The image was deconvolved to recover the highest possible spatial resolution and oversampled by a factor of eight to reduce pixilation effects. Kerberos appears to have a double-lobed shape, approximately 7.4 miles (12 kilometers) across in its long dimension and 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) in its shortest dimension.
  • Family Portrait of Pluto's Moons
    This composite image shows a sliver of Pluto's large moon, Charon, and all four of Pluto's small moons, as resolved by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons spacecraft. All the moons are displayed with a common intensity stretch and spatial scale (see scale bar). Charon is by far the largest of Pluto's moons, with a diameter of 751 miles (1,212 kilometers). Nix and Hydra have comparable sizes, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) across in their longest dimension above. Kerberos and Styx are much smaller and have comparable sizes, roughly 6-7 miles (10-12 kilometers) across in their longest dimension. All four small moons have highly elongated shapes, a characteristic thought to be typical of small bodies in the Kuiper Belt.
  • Sputnik Planum, in Color
    This high-resolution image captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the "heart," informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices.
  • Pluto's Blue Sky
    Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturns moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles (called tholins) that grow as they settle toward the surface. This image was generated by software that combines information from blue, red and near-infrared images to replicate the color a human eye would perceive as closely as possible.
  • Water Ice on Pluto
    Regions with exposed water ice are highlighted in blue in this composite image from New Horizons' Ralph instrument, combining visible imagery from the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) with infrared spectroscopy from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). The strongest signatures of water ice occur along Virgil Fossa, just west of Elliot crater on the left side of the inset image, and also in Viking Terra near the top of the frame. A major outcrop also occurs in Bar Montes towards the right of the image, along with numerous much smaller outcrops, mostly associated with impact craters and valleys between mountains. The scene is approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) across. Note that all surface feature names are informal.
  • Charon in Enhanced Color
    NASA's New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. Charon's color palette is not as diverse as Pluto's; most striking is the reddish north (top) polar region, informally named Mordor Macula. Charon is 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) across; this image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers).
  • Charon in Detail
    High-resolution images of Charon were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, shortly before closest approach on July 14, 2015, and overlaid with enhanced color from the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Charon's cratered uplands at the top are broken by series of canyons, and replaced on the bottom by the rolling plains of the informally named Vulcan Planum. The scene covers Charons width of 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) and resolves details as small as 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers).
  • Charon and Pluto: Strikingly Different Worlds
    A composite of enhanced color images of Pluto (lower right) and Charon (upper left), taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it passed through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. This image highlights the striking differences between Pluto and Charon. The color and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon's polar red terrain and Pluto's equatorial red terrain. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC).
  • Flying over Charon
    Images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft were used to create this flyover video of Pluto's largest moon, Charon. The "flight" starts with the informally named Mordor (dark) region near Charon's north pole. The camera then moves south to a vast chasm, descending from 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) to just 40 miles (60 kilometers) above the surface to fly through the canyon system. From there it's a turn to the south to view the plains and "moat mountain," informally named Kubrick Mons, a prominent peak surrounded by a topographic depression. New Horizons Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photographs showing details at up to 400 meters per pixel were used to create the basemap for this animation. Those images, along with pictures taken from a slightly different vantage point by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), were used to create a preliminary digital terrain (elevation) model. The images and model were combined and super-sampled to create this animation. Download mp4
  • 'Snakeskin' Terrain
    In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto's day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).
  • From Pluto's Mountains to Its Plains
    High-resolution images of Pluto taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft just before closest approach on July 14, 2015, reveal features as small as 270 yards (250 meters) across, from craters to faulted mountain blocks, to the textured surface of the vast basin informally called Sputnik Planum. Enhanced color has been added from the global color image. This image is about 330 miles (530 kilometers) across.
  • Pluto in Extended Color
    This cylindrical projection map of Pluto, in enhanced, extended color, is the most detailed color map of Pluto ever made. It uses recently returned color imagery from the New Horizons Ralph camera, which is draped onto a base map of images from the NASA's spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The map can be zoomed in to reveal exquisite detail with high scientific value. Color variations have been enhanced to bring out subtle differences. Colors used in this map are the blue, red, and near-infrared filter channels of the Ralph instrument.
  • Ice Mountains and Plains
    High-resolution images of Pluto taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft just before closest approach on July 14, 2015, are the sharpest images to date of Pluto's varied terrain-revealing details down to scales of 270 meters. In this 75-mile (120-kilometer) section taken from the larger, high-resolution mosaic, the textured surface of the plain surrounds two isolated ice mountains.
  • Mapping Pluto's Methane Ice
    The Ralph/LEISA infrared spectrometer on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft mapped compositions across Pluto's surface as it flew past the planet on July 14, 2015. On the left, a map of methane ice abundance shows striking regional differences, with stronger methane absorption indicated by the brighter purple colors, and lower abundances shown in black. Data have only been received so far for the left half of Plutos disk. At right, the methane map is merged with higher-resolution images from the spacecrafts Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).
  • The Rich Color Variations of Pluto
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Pluto's surface sports a remarkable range of subtle colors, enhanced in this view to a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a complex geological and climatological story that scientists have only just begun to decode. The image resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).
  • Flyover Sputnik Planum
    Images downloaded from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft (through Sept. 11, 2015) were stitched together and rendered on a sphere to make this flyover "movie." This animation, made with images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), begins with a low-altitude look at the informally named Norgay Montes, flies northward over the boundary between informally named Sputnik Planum and Cthulhu Regio, turns, and drifts slowly east. During the animation, the altitude of the observer rises until it is about 10 times higher to show about 80% of the hemisphere New Horizons flew closest to on July 14, 2015. Download mp4
  • Pluto's Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes:
    Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto's horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Plutos tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) wide.
  • Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains:
    Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured a near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto's horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto's tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across.
  • Near-Surface Haze or Fog on Pluto:
    In this small section of the larger crescent image of Pluto, taken by NASA's New Horizons just 15 minutes after the spacecraft's closest approach on July 14, 2015, the setting sun illuminates a fog or near-surface haze, which is cut by the parallel shadows of many local hills and small mountains. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers), and the width of the image is 115 miles (185 kilometers).
  • Sputnik Planum in Detail:
    Sputnik Planum is the informal name of the smooth, light-bulb shaped region on the left of this composite of several New Horizons images of Pluto. The brilliantly white upland region to the right may be coated by nitrogen ice that has been transported through the atmosphere from the surface of Sputnik Planum, and deposited on these uplands. The box shows the location of the glacier detail images here and here. Click here for a non-annotated version
  • Sputnik Planum in Detail:
    Sputnik Planum is the informal name of the smooth, light-bulb shaped region on the left of this composite of several New Horizons images of Pluto. The brilliantly white upland region to the right may be coated by nitrogen ice that has been transported through the atmosphere from the surface of Sputnik Planum, and deposited on these uplands.
  • Valley Glaciers on Pluto:
    Ice (probably frozen nitrogen) that appears to have accumulated on the uplands on the right side of this 390-mile (630-kilometer) wide image is draining from Pluto's mountains onto the informally named Sputnik Planum through the 2- to 5-mile (3- to 8- kilometer) wide valleys indicated by the red arrows. The flow front of the ice moving into Sputnik Planum is outlined by the blue arrows. The origin of the ridges and pits on the right side of the image remains uncertain. Click here for a non-annotated version
  • Valley Glaciers on Pluto:
    Ice (probably frozen nitrogen) that appears to have accumulated on the uplands on the right side of this 390-mile (630-kilometer) wide image is draining from Pluto's mountains onto the informally named Sputnik Planum through the 2- to 5-mile (3- to 8- kilometer) wide valleys indicated by the red arrows. The flow front of the ice moving into Sputnik Planum is outlined by the blue arrows. The origin of the ridges and pits on the right side of the image remains uncertain.
  • Intricate Valley Glaciers on Pluto:
    This image covers the same region as the image above, but is re-projected from the oblique, backlit view shown in the new crescent image of Pluto. The backlighting highlights the intricate flow lines on the glaciers. The flow front of the ice moving into the informally named Sputnik Planum is outlined by the blue arrows. The origin of the ridges and pits on the right side of the image remains uncertain. This image is 390 miles (630 kilometers) across. Click here for a non-annotated version
  • Intricate Valley Glaciers on Pluto:
    This image covers the same region as the previous image, but is re-projected from the oblique, backlit view shown in the new crescent image of Pluto. The backlighting highlights the intricate flow lines on the glaciers. The flow front of the ice moving into the informally named Sputnik Planum is outlined by the blue arrows. The origin of the ridges and pits on the right side of the image remains uncertain. This image is 390 miles (630 kilometers) across.
  • Looking over Pluto
    This synthetic perspective view of Pluto, based on the latest high-resolution images to be downlinked from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, shows what you would see if you were approximately 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) above Plutos equatorial area, looking northeast over the dark, cratered, informally named Cthulhu Regio toward the bright, smooth, expanse of icy plains informally called Sputnik Planum. The entire expanse of terrain seen in this image is 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) across. The images were taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
  • Surface Variety
    Mosaic of high-resolution images of Pluto, sent back from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft from Sept. 5 to 7, 2015. The image is dominated by the informally-named icy plain Sputnik Planum, the smooth, bright region across the center. This image also features a tremendous variety of other landscapes surrounding Sputnik. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size, and the mosaic covers a region roughly 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) wide. The image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
  • Surface Variety
    Mosaic of high-resolution images of Pluto, transmitted by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft from Sept. 5 to 7, 2015. The image is dominated by the informally-named icy plain Sputnik Planum, the smooth, bright region across the center. This image also features a tremendous variety of other landscapes surrounding Sputnik. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size, and the mosaic covers a region roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) wide. The image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). The two white rectangles show the locations of the two closeup views by New Horizons, released separately.
  • Chaos Region
    In the center of this 300-mile (470-kilometer) wide image of Pluto from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft is a large region of jumbled, broken terrain on the northwestern edge of the vast, icy plain informally called Sputnik Planum, to the right. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
  • Dark Areas
    This 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide view of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain; bright, smooth geologically young terrain; assembled masses of mountains; and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges that resemble dunes; its origin is under debate. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
  • Charon's Complexity
    This image of Pluto's largest moon Charon, taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft 10 hours before its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers), is a recently downlinked, much higher quality version of a Charon image released on July 15. Charon, which is 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in diameter, displays a surprisingly complex geological history, including tectonic fracturing; relatively smooth, fractured plains in the lower right; several enigmatic mountains surrounded by sunken terrain features on the right side; and heavily cratered regions in the center and upper left portion of the disk. There are also complex reflectivity patterns on Charons surface, including bright and dark crater rays, and the conspicuous dark north polar region at the top of the image. The smallest visible features are 2.9 miles 4.6 kilometers) in size
  • Pluto in Twilight
    This image of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, processed in two different ways, shows how Pluto's bright, high-altitude atmospheric haze produces a twilight that softly illuminates the surface before sunrise and after sunset, allowing the sensitive cameras on New Horizons to see details in nighttime regions that would otherwise be invisible. The right-hand version of the image has been greatly brightened to bring out faint details of rugged haze-lit topography beyond Plutos terminator, which is the line separating day and night. The image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
  • Pluto's Haze
    Two different versions of an image of Pluto's haze layers, taken by New Horizons as it looked back at Pluto's dark side nearly 16 hours after close approach, from a distance of 480,000 miles (770,000 kilometers), at a phase angle of 166 degrees. Pluto's north is at the top, and the sun illuminates Pluto from the upper right. These images are much higher quality than the digitally compressed images of Pluto's haze downlinked and released shortly after the July 14 encounter, and allow many new details to be seen. The left version has had only minor processing, while the right version has been specially processed to reveal a large number of discrete haze layers in the atmosphere. In the left version, faint surface details on the narrow sunlit crescent are seen through the haze in the upper right of Pluto's disk, and subtle parallel streaks in the haze may be crepuscular rays- shadows cast on the haze by topography such as mountain ranges on Pluto, similar to the rays sometimes seen in the sky after the sun sets behind mountains on Earth.
  • Flying Past Pluto
    This dramatic view of the Pluto system is as NASA's New Horizons spacecraft saw it in July 2015. This animation, made with real images taken by New Horizons, begins with Pluto flying in for its close-up on July 14; we then pass behind Pluto and see the atmosphere glow in sunlight before the sun passes behind Plutos largest moon, Charon. The movie ends with New Horizons' departure, looking back on each body as thin crescents. Download MP4
  • Pluto's Colorful Composition
    Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the spacecraft's Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken July 13, 2015, when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). This enhanced color image helps scientists detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto's surface. The data hint that Pluto may still be geologically active, a theory that could explain how Pluto's escaping atmosphere remains flush with nitrogen.
  • Global Map of Pluto's Moon Charon
    The science team of NASA's New Horizons mission has produced this global map of Plutos largest moon, Charon. The map includes all available resolved images of the surface acquired between July 7-14, 2015, at pixel resolutions ranging from 40 kilometers (24 miles) on the anti-Pluto facing hemisphere (left and right sides of the map), to 400 meters (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 center. Many additional images now stored on the spacecrafts digital data recorders are expected to be transmitted "home" in fall 2015 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 center. The New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto and its moons on July 14. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. SwRI, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Informal Names for Features on Pluto’s Sputnik Planum
    This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Plutos Sputnik Planum (plain). Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). For more information on the maps and feature naming, visit http://www.ourpluto.org/maps. Click here for a PDF version of this map.
  • Informal Names for Features on Pluto’s Moon Charon
    This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features on Plutos largest moon, Charon. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). For more information on the maps and feature naming, visit http://www.ourpluto.org/maps. Click here for a PDF version of this map.
  • Informal Names for Features on Pluto
    This image contains the initial, informal names being used by the New Horizons team for the features and regions on the surface of Pluto. Names were selected based on the input the team received from the Our Pluto naming campaign. Names have not yet been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). For more information on the maps and feature naming, visit http://www.ourpluto.org/maps. Click here for a PDF version of this map.
  • Global Map of Pluto (with grid)
    The science team of NASAs New Horizons mission has produced an updated global map of the dwarf planet Pluto. The map includes all resolved images of the surface acquired between July 7-14, 2015, at pixel resolutions ranging from 40 kilometers (24 miles) on the Charon-facing hemisphere (left and right sides of the map) to 400 meters (1,250 feet) on the anti-Charon facing hemisphere (map center). Many additional images are expected in fall of 2015 and these will be used to complete the global map. The New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto and its moons on July 14. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. SwRI, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Global Map of Pluto (without grid)
    The science team of NASAs New Horizons mission has produced an updated global map of the dwarf planet Pluto. The map includes all resolved images of the surface acquired between July 7-14, 2015, at pixel resolutions ranging from 40 kilometers (24 miles) on the Charon-facing hemisphere (left and right sides of the map) to 400 meters (1,250 feet) on the anti-Charon facing hemisphere (map center). Many additional images are expected in fall of 2015 and these will be used to complete the global map. The New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto and its moons on July 14. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. SwRI, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Pluto in True Color
    Four images from New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers), twice the resolution of the single-image view taken on July 13.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 1
    Pluto and Charon are shown in a composite of natural-color images from New Horizons. Images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to produce these views, which portray Pluto and Charon as an observer riding on the spacecraft would see them. The images were acquired on July 13 and 14, 2015
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 2a
    Four images from New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers), twice the resolution of the single-image view taken on July 13.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 2b
    Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers).
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 2c
    Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers).
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 3
    Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers).
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 4
    Searching for signs of an atmosphere around Pluto's largest moon Charon, New Horizons' Alice instrument observed Charon passing in front of the sun-an event called an occultation-on July 14, 2015. Only a portion of the occultation data has been transmitted to Earth so far; in that limited dataset, an atmosphere has not yet been detected.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Alan Stern, Slide 5
    Backlit by the sun, atmospheric haze rings Pluto's silhouette like a luminous halo in this image taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft around midnight EDT on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Pluto and shows structures as small as 12 miles across. The image was delivered to Earth on July 23.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Michael Summers, Slide 1a
    Speeding away from Pluto just seven hours after its July 14 closest approach, the New Horizons spacecraft looked back and captured this spectacular image of Pluto's atmosphere, backlit by the sun. The image reveals layers of haze that are several times higher than scientists predicted.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Michael Summers, Slide 1b
    Image of Pluto's hazes; false-color inset reveals a variety of structures, including two distinct layers
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Michael Summers, Slide 1c
    Image of Pluto's hazes; false-color inset reveals a variety of structures, including two distinct layers
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Michael Summers, Slide 2
    Animation showing the link between the sunlight-driven chemistry in Pluto's upper atmosphere and the reddish-brown hydrocarbons that darken the surface Download MP4
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Michael Summers, Slide 3a
    Chart indicating changes in Pluto's surface pressure over time.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Michael Summers, Slide 3b
    Chart indicating changes in Pluto's surface pressure, marking time of the New Horizons radio science (REX) measurements.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Cathy Olkin, Slide 1
    Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers), twice the resolution of the single-image view taken on July 13, 2015.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Cathy Olkin, Slide 2
    Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers).
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - Cathy Olkin, Slide 3
    Within the circled region of Pluto's Sputnik Planum, New Horizons Ralph instrument has detected frozen methane, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Slide 1
    This animation shows the location of a new mosaic of seven images that were acquired by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14. The mosaic covers the vast icy region informally named Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), lying within the heart-shaped feature informally named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region). Download MP4
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Slide 2
    Mosaic of seven images that were acquired by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, covering the vast icy region informally named Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), lying within the heart-shaped feature informally named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region).
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Image 2a
    The orange rectangle shows the location of features in the north region of Pluto's Sputnik Planum.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Slide 2b
    In the northern region of Pluto's Sputnik Planum, swirl-shaped patterns of light and dark suggest that a surface layer of exotic ices has flowed around obstacles and into depressions, much like glaciers on Earth.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Slide 2c
    Annotated image of the northern region of Pluto's Sputnik Planum, swirl-shaped patterns of light and dark suggest that a surface layer of exotic ices has flowed around obstacles and into depressions, much like glaciers on Earth.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Slide 3a
    The orange rectangle shows the location of features in the southern region of Pluto's Sputnik Planum.
  • Press Conference (7/24/15) - William McKinnon, Slide 4
    Simulated flyover of Pluto's Sputnik Planum and Hillary Montes, created from New Horizons close approach images Download MP4
  • 'Capturing' Nix and Hydra
    Plutos moon Nix (left), shown here in enhanced color as imaged by the New Horizons Ralph instrument, has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. The data were obtained on the morning of July 14, 2015, and received on the ground on July 18. At the time the observations were taken New Horizons was about 102,000 miles (165,000 km) from Nix. The image shows features as small as approximately 2 miles (3 kilometers) across on Nix, which is estimated to be 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and 22 miles (36 kilometers) wide. Pluto's small, irregularly shaped moon Hydra (right) is revealed in this black and white image taken from New Horizons' LORRI instrument on July 14, 2015 from a distance of about 143,000 miles (231,000 kilometers). Features as small as 0.7 miles (1.2 kilometers) are visible on Hydra, which measures 34 miles (55 kilometers) in length.
  • A Mountain Range within Pluto’s ‘Heart’
    A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Plutos heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain. This image was acquired by New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. These frozen peaks are estimated to be one-half mile to one mile (1-1.5 kilometers) high, about the same height as the United States Appalachian Mountains. The Norgay Montes (Norgay Mountains) discovered by New Horizons on July 15 more closely approximate the height of the taller Rocky Mountains. The names of features on Pluto have all been given on an informal basis by the New Horizons team.
  • Frozen Plains in the Heart of Pluto’s ‘Heart’
    In the center left of Plutos vast heart-shaped feature informally named Tombaugh Regio - lies a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Plutos icy mountains and has been informally named Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), after Earths first artificial satellite. The surface appears to be divided into irregularly-shaped segments that are ringed by narrow troughs. Features that appear to be groups of mounds and fields of small pits are also visible. This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers). Features as small as one-half mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The blocky appearance of some features is due to compression of the image.
  • Artist’s concept of the interaction of the solar wind
    Artists concept of the interaction of the solar wind (the supersonic outflow of electrically charged particles from the Sun) with Plutos predominantly nitrogen atmosphere. Some of the molecules that form the atmosphere have enough energy to overcome Plutos weak gravity and escape into space, where they are ionized by solar ultraviolet radiation. As the solar wind encounters the obstacle formed by the ions, it is slowed and diverted (depicted in the red region), possibly forming a shock wave upstream of Pluto. The ions are picked up by the solar wind and carried in its flow past the dwarf planet to form an ion or plasma tail (blue region). The Solar Wind around Pluto (SWAP) instrument on the New Horizons spacecraft made the first measurements of this region of low-energy atmospheric ions shortly after closest approach on July 14. Such measurements will enable the SWAP team to determine the rate at which Pluto loses its atmosphere and, in turn, will yield insight into the evolution of the Plutos atmosphere and surface. Also illustrated are the orbits of Plutos five moons and the trajectory of the spacecraft.
  • Peering closely at the “heart of Pluto”
    Peering closely at the heart of Pluto, in the western half of what mission scientists have informally named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), New Horizons Ralph instrument revealed evidence of carbon monoxide ice. The contours indicate that the concentration of frozen carbon monoxide increases towards the center of the bulls eye. These data were acquired by the spacecraft on July 14 and transmitted to Earth on July 16.
  • Portrait of Pluto and Charon
    The latest two full-frame images of Pluto and Charon were collected separately by New Horizons during approach on July 13 and July 14, 2015. The relative reflectivity, size, separation, and orientations of Pluto and Charon are approximated in this composite image, and they are shown in approximate true color.
  • Alice Solar Occultation
    This figure shows how the Alice instrument count rate changed over time during the sunset and sunrise observations. The count rate is largest when the line of sight to the sun is outside of the atmosphere at the start and end times. Molecular nitrogen (N2) starts absorbing sunlight in the upper reaches of Plutos atmosphere, decreasing as the spacecraft approaches the planets shadow. As the occultation progresses, atmospheric methane and hydrocarbons can also absorb the sunlight and further decrease the count rate. When the spacecraft is totally in Plutos shadow the count rate goes to zero. As the spacecraft emerges from Plutos shadow into sunrise, the process is reversed. By plotting the observed count rate in the reverse time direction, it is seen that the atmospheres on opposite sides of Pluto are nearly identical.
  • Pluto Solar Occultations
    This figure shows the locations of the sunset and sunrise solar occultations observed by the Alice instrument on the New Horizons spacecraft. The sunset occultation occurred just south of the heart region of Pluto, from a range of 30,120 miles (48,200 km), while the sunrise occurred just north of the "whale tail", from a range of 35,650 miles (57,000 km).
  • Portion of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain)
    This annotated view of a portion of Plutos Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), named for Earths first artificial satellite, shows an array of enigmatic features. The surface appears to be divided into irregularly shaped segments that are ringed by narrow troughs, some of which contain darker materials. Features that appear to be groups of mounds and fields of small pits are also visible. This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers). Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The blocky appearance of some features is due to compression of the image.
  • Close-Up of Charon’s ‘Mountain in a Moat’
    This image of an area on Pluto's largest moon Charon has a captivating featurea depression with a peak in the middle, shown here in the upper left corner of the inset. The image shows an area approximately 240 miles (390 kilometers) from top to bottom, including few visible craters. This image gives a preview of what the surface of this large moon will look like in future close-ups from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. This image is heavily compressed; sharper versions are anticipated when the full-fidelity data from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) are returned to Earth. The rectangle superimposed on the global view of Charon shows the approximate location of this close-up view. The image was taken at approximately 6:30 a.m. EDT (10:30 UTC) on July 14, 2015, about 1.5 hours before closest approach to Pluto, from a range of 49,000 miles (79,000 kilometers).
  • The Icy Mountains of Pluto
    New close-up images of a region near Plutos equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago -- mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system -- and may still be in the process of building, says Jeff Moore of New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI). That suggests the close-up region, which covers less than one percent of Plutos surface, may still be geologically active today. Moore and his colleagues base the youthful age estimate on the lack of craters in this scene. Like the rest of Pluto, this region would presumably have been pummeled by space debris for billions of years and would have once been heavily cratered -- unless recent activity had given the region a facelift, erasing those pockmarks. This is one of the youngest surfaces weve ever seen in the solar system, says Moore. Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape. This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds, says GGI deputy team leader John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. The mountains are probably composed of Plutos water-ice bedrock. Although methane and nitrogen ice covers much of the surface of Pluto, these materials are not strong enough to build the mountains. Instead, a stiffer material, most likely water-ice, created the peaks. At Plutos temperatures, water-ice behaves more like rock, said deputy GGI lead Bill McKinnon of Washington University, St. Louis. The close-up image was taken about 1.5 hours before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 47,800 miles (77,000 kilometers) from the surface of the planet. The image easily resolves structures smaller than a mile across.
  • The Icy Mountains of Pluto (annotated)
    New close-up images of a region near Plutos equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago -- mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system -- and may still be in the process of building, says Jeff Moore of New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI). That suggests the close-up region, which covers less than one percent of Plutos surface, may still be geologically active today. Moore and his colleagues base the youthful age estimate on the lack of craters in this scene. Like the rest of Pluto, this region would presumably have been pummeled by space debris for billions of years and would have once been heavily cratered -- unless recent activity had given the region a facelift, erasing those pockmarks. This is one of the youngest surfaces weve ever seen in the solar system, says Moore. Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape. This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds, says GGI deputy team leader John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. The mountains are probably composed of Plutos water-ice bedrock. Although methane and nitrogen ice covers much of the surface of Pluto, these materials are not strong enough to build the mountains. Instead, a stiffer material, most likely water-ice, created the peaks. At Plutos temperatures, water-ice behaves more like rock, said deputy GGI lead Bill McKinnon of Washington University, St. Louis. The close-up image was taken about 1.5 hours before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 47,800 miles (77,000 kilometers) from the surface of the planet. The image easily resolves structures smaller than a mile across.
  • Charon’s Surprising Youthful and Varied Terrain
    Remarkable new details of Plutos largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers). A swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from left to right, suggesting widespread fracturing of Charons crust, likely a result of internal processes. At upper right, along the moons curving edge, is a canyon estimated to be 4 to 6 miles (7 to 9 kilometers) deep. Mission scientists are surprised by the apparent lack of craters on Charon. South of the moons equator, at the bottom of this image, terrain is lit by the slanting rays of the sun, creating shadows that make it easier to distinguish topography. Even here, however, relatively few craters are visible, indicating a relatively young surface that has been reshaped by geologic activity. In Charons north polar region, a dark marking prominent in New Horizons approach images is now seen to have a diffuse boundary, suggesting it is a thin deposit of dark material. Underlying it is a distinct, sharply bounded, angular feature; higher resolution images still to come are expected to shed more light on this enigmatic region. The image has been compressed to reduce its file size for transmission to Earth. In high-contrast areas of the image, features as small as 3 miles (5 kilometers) across can be seen. Some lower-contrast detail is obscured by the compression of the image, which may make some areas appear smoother than they really are. The uncompressed version still resides in New Horizons computer memory and is scheduled to be transmitted at a later date. The image has been combined with color information obtained by New Horizons Ralph instrument on July 13. New Horizons traveled more than three billion miles over nine-and-a-half years to reach the Pluto system.
  • Pluto: The Ice Plot Thickens
    The latest spectra from New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface of Pluto. "We just learned that in the north polar cap, methane ice is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice resulting in strong absorption of infrared light, said New Horizons co-investigator Will Grundy, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona. In one of the visually dark equatorial patches, the methane ice has shallower infrared absorptions indicative of a very different texture. "The spectrum appears as if the ice is less diluted in nitrogen," Grundy speculated or that it has a different texture in that area." An Earthly example of different textures of a frozen substance: a fluffy bank of clean snow is bright white, but compacted polar ice looks blue. New Horizons' surface composition team, led by Grundy, has begun the intricate process of analyzing Ralph data to determine the detailed compositions of the distinct regions on Pluto. This is the first detailed image of Pluto from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array, part of the Ralph instrument on New Horizons. The observations were made at three wavelengths of infrared light, which are invisible to the human eye. In this picture, blue corresponds to light of wavelengths 1.62 to 1.70 micrometers, a channel covering a medium-strong absorption band of methane ice, green (1.97 to 2.05 micrometers) represents a channel where methane ice does not absorb light, and red (2.30 to 2.33 micrometers) is a channel where the light is very heavily absorbed by methane ice. The two areas outlined on Pluto show where Ralph observations obtained the spectral traces at the right. Note that the methane absorptions (notable dips) in the spectrum from the northern region are much deeper than the dips in the spectrum from the dark patch. The Ralph data were obtained by New Horizons on July 12, 2015.
  • Hydra Emerges from the Shadows
    Since its discovery in 2005, Pluto's moon Hydra has been known only as a fuzzy dot of uncertain shape, size, and reflectivity. Imaging obtained during New Horizons' historic transit of the Pluto-Charon system and transmitted to Earth early this morning has definitively resolved these fundamental properties of Pluto's outermost moon. Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) observations revealed an irregularly shaped body characterized by significant brightness variations over the surface. With a resolution of 2 miles (3 kilometers) per pixel, the LORRI image shows the tiny potato-shaped moon measures 27 miles (43 kilometers) by 20 miles (33 kilometers). Like that of Charon, Hydra's surface is probably covered with water ice, the most abundant ice in the universe. Observed within Hydra's bright regions is a darker circular structure with a diameter of approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers). Hydra's reflectivity (the percentage of incident light reflected from the surface) is intermediate between that of Pluto and Charon. "New Horizons has finally nailed the basic physical properties of Hydra," says Hal Weaver, New Horizons Project Scientist and LORRI science operations lead. "We're going to see Hydra even better in the images yet to come." Hydra was approximately 400,000 miles away from New Horizons when the image was acquired.
  • Pluto’s Big Heart
    Pluto nearly fills the frame in this black and white image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASAs New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015, when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecrafts closest approach to Pluto on July 14.
  • Pluto's Big Heart in Color
    Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASAs New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015, when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecrafts closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the heart, which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) is complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the hearts interior appears remarkably featurelesspossibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.
  • New Horizons Team Reacts to Latest Image of Pluto
    Members of the New Horizons science team react to seeing the spacecraft's last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach later in the day, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
  • Pluto and Charon in False Color Show Compositional Diversity
    This July 13, 2015, image of Pluto and Charon is presented in false colors to make differences in surface material and features easy to see. It was obtained by the Ralph instrument on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, using three filters to obtain color information, which is exaggerated in the image. These are not the actual colors of Pluto and Charon, and the apparent distance between the two bodies has been reduced for this side-by-side view. The image reveals that the bright heart-shaped region of Pluto includes areas that differ in color characteristics. The western lobe, shaped like an ice-cream cone, appears peach color in this image. A mottled area on the right (east) appears bluish. Even within Pluto's northern polar cap, in the upper part of the image, various shades of yellow-orange indicate subtle compositional differences. The surface of Charon is viewed using the same exaggerated color. The red on the dark northern polar cap of Charon is attributed to hydrocarbon materials including a class of chemical compounds called tholins. The mottled colors at lower latitudes point to the diversity of terrains on Charon. This image was taken at 3:38 a.m. EDT on July 13, one day before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto.
  • Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra
    The approximate sizes of Plutos moons Nix and Hydra compared to Denver, Colorado. While Nix and Hydra are illustrated as circles in this diagram, mission scientists anticipate that future observations by New Horizons will show that they are irregular in shape.
  • Charon Features
    Charons newly-discovered system of chasms, larger than the Grand Canyon on Earth, rotates out of view in New Horizons sharpest image yet of the Texas-sized moon. Its trailed by a large equatorial impact crater that is ringed by bright rays of ejected material. In this latest image, the dark north polar region is displaying new and intriguing patterns. This image was taken on July 12 from a distance of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers).
  • Pluto's Heart
    Plutos bright, mysterious heart is rotating into view, ready for its close-up on close approach, in this image taken by New Horizons on July 12 from a distance of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers). It is the target of the highest-resolution images that will be taken during the spacecrafts closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The intriguing bulls-eye feature at right is rotating out of view, and will not be seen in greater detail.
  • Pluto is More Intriguing than Ever
    Pluto as seen from New Horizons on July 11, 2015.
  • Pluto is More Intriguing than Ever (annotated)
    On July 11, 2015, New Horizons captured a world that is growing more fascinating by the day. For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Rotating into view is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons' closest approach on July 14. The annotated version includes a diagram indicating Pluto's north pole, equator, and central meridian.
  • Charon's Chasms and Craters
    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.
  • Charon's Chasms and Craters (annotated)
    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. This annotated version includes a diagram showing Charon's north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted.
  • New Horizons’ Last Portrait of Pluto’s Puzzling Spots
    New Horizons' last look at Pluto's Charon-facing hemisphere reveals intriguing geologic details that are of keen interest to mission scientists. This image, taken early the morning of July 11, 2015, shows newly-resolved linear features above the equatorial region that intersect, suggestive of polygonal shapes. This image was captured when the spacecraft was 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) from Pluto.
  • Signs of Geology (Annotated)
    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. The annotation indicates features described in the text, and includes a reference globe showing Plutos orientation in the image, with the equator and central meridian in bold. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon, and includes the so-called tail of the dark whale-shaped feature along its equator. (The immense, bright feature shaped like a heart had rotated from view when this image was captured. Among the structures tentatively identified in this new image are what appear to be polygonal features; a complex band of terrain stretching east-northeast across the planet, approximately 1,000 miles long; and a complex region where bright terrains meet the dark terrains of the whale.
  • Signs of Geology
    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. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon, and includes the so-called tail of the dark whale-shaped feature along its equator. (The immense, bright feature shaped like a heart had rotated from view when this image was captured. Among the structures tentatively identified in this new image are what appear to be polygonal features; a complex band of terrain stretching east-northeast across the planet, approximately 1,000 miles long; and a complex region where bright terrains meet the dark terrains of the whale.
  • The Dynamic Duo
    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. Most of the bright features around Pluto's edge are a result of image processing, but the bright sliver below the dark "whale," which is also visible in unprocessed images, is real.
  • Pluto, up Close
    Image of Pluto from the New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), July 8, 2015. Most of the bright features around Pluto's edge are a result of image processing, but the bright sliver below the dark "whale," which is also visible in unprocessed images, is real.
  • The Dynamic Duo, in Color
    This is the same image of Pluto and Charon from July 8, 2015; color information obtained earlier in the mission from the Ralph instrument has been added.
  • Charon, Up Close
    Image of Charon from the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), July 8, 2015.
  • A Heart on Pluto
    In the early morning hours of July 8, 2015, mission scientists received this new view of Plutothe most detailed yet returned by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons. The image was taken on July 7, when the NASA spacecraft was just under 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) from Pluto, and is the first to be received since the July 4 anomaly that sent the spacecraft into safe mode. This view is centered roughly on the area that will be seen close-up during New Horizons July 14 closest approach. This side of Pluto is dominated by three broad regions of varying brightness. Most prominent are an elongated dark feature at the equator, informally known as the whale, and a large heart-shaped bright area measuring some 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) across on the right. Above those features is a polar region that is intermediate in brightness.
  • The Whale and the Donut
    This map of Pluto, created from images taken from June 27-July 3, 2015, by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons, was combined with lower-resolution color data from the spacecraft's Ralph instrument. The center of the map corresponds to the side of Pluto that will be seen close-up during New Horizons' July 14 flyby. This map gives mission scientists an important tool to decipher the complex and intriguing pattern of bright and dark markings on Pluto's surface. Features from all sides of Pluto can now be seen at a glance and from a consistent perspective, making it much easier to compare their shapes and sizes. The elongated dark area informally known as "the whale," along the equator on the left side of the map, is one of the darkest regions visible to New Horizons. It measures some 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) in length. Directly to the right of the whales "snout" is the brightest region visible on the planet, which is roughly 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. This may be a region where relatively fresh deposits of frostperhaps including frozen methane, nitrogen and/or carbon monoxideform a bright coating.
  • Three Views of Pluto (Annotated)
    These high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASAs New Horizons spacecraft include one showing the four mysterious dark spots that have captured the imagination of the world. The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) obtained these three images between July 1-3, 2015. The left image shows, on the right side of the disk, a large bright area on the hemisphere of Pluto that will be seen close-up by New Horizons on July 14, 2015. The three images together show the full extent of a continuous swath of dark terrain that wraps around much of Plutos equatorial region. The western end of the swath (right image) breaks up into a series of striking dark regularly-spaced spots, each hundreds of miles in size, which were first detected in New Horizons images taken in late June. Intriguing details are beginning to emerge in the bright material north of the dark region, in particular a series of bright and dark patches that are conspicuous just below the center of the disk in the right image. In all three black-and-white views, the apparent jagged bottom edge of Pluto is the result of image processing. Image details are as follows. Left: Taken on July 1st at 22:53 UT, from a range of 9.2 million miles (14.9 million km), with a central longitude of 133. Center: Taken on July 3rd at 04:38 UT, from a range of 8.3 million miles (13.5 million km), with a central longitude of 63. Right: Taken on July 3rd at 23:25 UT, from a range of 7.8 million miles (12.5 million km), with a central longitude of 19. The outline globe shows the orientation of Pluto in each image; solid lines mark the equator and the prime meridian (longitude 0), which is defined as the direction facing Charon. The northern hemisphere is tilted towards the spacecraft. All images have been sharpened using a process called deconvolution.
  • Three Views of Pluto
    These high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASAs New Horizons spacecraft include one showing the four mysterious dark spots that have captured the imagination of the world. The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) obtained these three images between July 1-3, 2015. The left image shows, on the right side of the disk, a large bright area on the hemisphere of Pluto that will be seen close-up by New Horizons on July 14, 2015. The three images together show the full extent of a continuous swath of dark terrain that wraps around much of Plutos equatorial region. The western end of the swath (right image) breaks up into a series of striking dark regularly-spaced spots, each hundreds of miles in size, which were first detected in New Horizons images taken in late June. Intriguing details are beginning to emerge in the bright material north of the dark region, in particular a series of bright and dark patches that are conspicuous just below the center of the disk in the right image. In all three black-and-white views, the apparent jagged bottom edge of Pluto is the result of image processing. Image details are as follows. Left: Taken on July 1st at 22:53 UT, from a range of 9.2 million miles (14.9 million km), with a central longitude of 133. Center: Taken on July 3rd at 04:38 UT, from a range of 8.3 million miles (13.5 million km), with a central longitude of 63. Right: Taken on July 3rd at 23:25 UT, from a range of 7.8 million miles (12.5 million km), with a central longitude of 19.
  • A Pluto Color Combo
    This color version of a New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) picture of Pluto taken July 3, 2015, was created by adding color data from the Ralph instrument gathered earlier in the mission. The LORRI image was taken from a range of 7.8 million miles (12.5 million km), with a central longitude of 19.
  • The 'Other' Red Planet
    What color is Pluto? The answer, revealed in the first maps made from New Horizons data, turns out to be shades of reddish brown. The missions first map of Pluto is in approximate true color that is, the color you would see if you were riding on New Horizons. At left, a map of Plutos northern hemisphere composed using high-resolution black-and-white images from New Horizons LORRI instrument. At right is a map of Plutos colors created using data from the Ralph instrument. In the center is the combined map, produced by merging the LORRI and Ralph data. Download GIF animation here
  • Pluto: A Remarkable World
    Even though New Horizons is still millions of miles from Pluto, its highest resolution imager is revealing a remarkably complex surface. This image of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 1, 2015, from a distance of 10 million miles (16 million kilometers), shows features as small as 100 miles (160 kilometers) across. This view shows the side of Pluto that will be viewed in highest resolution by New Horizons when it flies past the planet on July 14. Near the equator, sharp edged dark regions are surrounded by brighter terrain. Farther north, shadings are more subtle, with suggestions of a more varied, mottled surface. "Even at this resolution, Pluto looks like no other world in our solar system, said co-investigator Marc Buie, of SwRI. "We're already seeing a remarkable amount of detail, and the complexity continues to increase as the images get better."
  • Pluto and Charon Surfaces in Living Color
    This is the first movie created by New Horizons to reveal color surface features of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. "It's a bit unusual to see so much surface detail at this distance," said New Horizons co-investigator William McKinnon, a member of the mission's Geology and Geophysics Investigation team, from Washington University in Saint Louis. "What's especially noteworthy is the level of detail in both bodies. It's certainly whetting our appetite for what's to come." The images were taken between June 23 and June 29, 2015, as New Horizons' distance to Pluto decreased from a distance of 15 million to 11 million miles (24 million to 18 million kilometers). Six high-resolution black-and-white images from New Horizons' Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) instrument were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to produce the movie. Download animated gif
  • All Clear for New Horizons
    This illustration shows some of the final images used to determine that the coast is clear for New Horizons' flight through the Pluto system. These images show the difference between two sets of 48 combined 10-second exposures with New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, taken at 8:40 UTC and 10:25 UTC on June 26, 2015, from a range of 21.5 million kilometers (approximately 13 million miles) to Pluto. The known small moons, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx, are visible as adjacent bright and dark pairs of dots, due to their motion in the 105 minutes between the two image sets. The images have been extensively processed to remove the glare and "ghosts" (i.e., lens flare) from Pluto and Charon, and also to remove background stars, though many of the brighter stars are imperfectly removed and appear as irregular bright and dark blobs. These and other similar sets of images demonstrate that there are no previously unknown moons brighter than 15 times fainter than Styx (the faintest known moon) in the region outside of Charon's orbit, or brighter than five times fainter than Styx in the region between Charon's orbit and a few thousand kilometers above Pluto's surface.
  • Two Faces of Pluto, In Color (annotated)
    Pluto shows two remarkably different sides in these color images of the planet and its largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on June 25 and June 27. The images were made from black-and-white images combined with lower-resolution color data. The left image shows the side of Pluto that will be seen at highest resolution when New Horizons makes its close approach on July 14. The hemisphere is dominated by a very dark region that extends along the equator. The right image is of the side that faces Charon; the most dramatic feature on this side of Pluto is a row of dark spots arranged along the equator. (The equator appears near the bottom of the images, as only about half of the planet is shown.)
  • Two Faces of Pluto, In Color
    Pluto shows two remarkably different sides in these color images of the planet and its largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on June 25 and June 27. The images were made from black-and-white images combined with lower-resolution color data. The left image shows the side of Pluto that will be seen at highest resolution when New Horizons makes its close approach on July 14. The hemisphere is dominated by a very dark region that extends along the equator. The right image is of the side that faces Charon; the most dramatic feature on this side of Pluto is a row of dark spots arranged along the equator. (The equator appears near the bottom of the images, as only about half of the planet is shown.)
  • New Horizons 'Speeds Up' on Final Approach to Pluto (1)
    In the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, flight controllers (from left) Chris Regan and Becca Sepan monitor data from NASAs New Horizons spacecraft on June 30, after a short course-correction maneuver refined New Horizons path toward a flyby of Pluto on July 14.
  • New Horizons 'Speeds Up' on Final Approach to Pluto (2)
    In the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman and operations team member Karl Whittenburg watch for data confirming that the Pluto-bound NASA spacecraft successfully executed a course correction maneuver on June 30.
  • Features on the Close Approach Hemisphere
    These images, taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), show numerous large-scale features on Pluto's surface. The distance to Pluto ranges from 47 million kilometers (about 29 million miles) on June 5 to 31 million kilometers (19 million miles) on June 18. When various large, dark and bright regions appear near limbs, they give Pluto a distinct, but false, non-spherical appearance. Pluto is known to be almost perfectly spherical from previous data. These images are displayed at four times the native LORRI image size, and have been processed using a method called deconvolution, which sharpens the original images to enhance features on Pluto.
  • A Dark Mystery on Charon
    These recent images show the discovery of significant surface details on Plutos largest moon, Charon. They were taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on June 18, 2015. The image on the left is the original image, displayed at four times the native LORRI image size. After applying a technique that sharpens an image called deconvolution, details become visible on Charon, including a distinct dark pole. Deconvolution can occasionally introduce "false" details, so the finest details in these pictures will need to be confirmed by images taken from closer range in the next few weeks.
  • Faces of Pluto
    These images, taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), show four different "faces" of Pluto as it rotates about its axis with a period of 6.4 days. All the images have been rotated to align Pluto's rotational axis with the vertical direction (up-down) on the figure, as depicted schematically in the upper left. From left to right, the images were taken when Pluto's central longitude was 17, 63, 130, and 243 degrees, respectively. The date of each image, the distance of the New Horizons spacecraft from Pluto, and the number of days until Pluto closest approach are all indicated in the figure. These images show dramatic variations in Pluto's surface features as it rotates. When a very large, dark region near Plutos equator appears near the limb, it gives Pluto a distinctly, but false, non-spherical appearance. Pluto is known to be almost perfectly spherical from previous data. These images are displayed at four times the native LORRI image size, and have been processed using a method called deconvolution, which sharpens the original images to enhance features on Pluto. Deconvolution can occasionally introduce "false" details, so the finest details in these pictures will need to be confirmed by images taken from closer range in the next few weeks. All of the images are displayed using the same brightness scale.
  • Faces of Pluto
    This "movie," composed of images taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), shows Pluto as it rotates about its axis. The images were taken May 28-June 3, 2015, from distances ranging from approximately 56 million kilometers to 48.5 million kilometers. Visible are dramatic variations in Pluto's surface features as it rotates. When a very large, dark region near Pluto's equator appears near the limb, it gives Pluto a distinctly, but false, non-spherical appearance. Pluto is known to be almost perfectly spherical from previous data. These images have been processed using a method called deconvolution, which sharpens the original images to enhance features on Pluto. Deconvolution can occasionally introduce "false" details, so the finest details in these pictures will need to be confirmed by images taken from closer range in the next few weeks. All of the images are displayed using the same brightness scale. Download Animated gif Download MP4
  • Pluto and Charon in Color: Pluto-Centric View
    The first color movies from NASAs New Horizons mission show Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, and the complex orbital dance of the two bodies, known as a double planet. This near-true color movie were assembled from images made in three colors - blue, red and near-infrared - by the Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera on the instrument known as Ralph. The images were taken on nine different occasions from May 29-June 3, 2015. The movie is "Pluto-centric," meaning that Charon is shown as it moves in relation to Pluto, which is digitally centered in the movie. (The North Pole of Pluto is at the top.) Pluto makes one turn around its axis every 6 days, 9 hours and 17.6 minutes-the same amount of time that Charon rotates in its orbit. Looking closely at the images in this movie, one can detect a regular shift in Pluto's brightness-due to the brighter and darker terrains on its differing faces. Download Animated gif
  • Pluto and Charon in Color: Barycentric View
    The first color movies from NASA's New Horizons mission show Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, and the complex orbital dance of the two bodies, known as a double planet. This near-true color movie were assembled from images made in three colors - blue, red and near-infrared - by the Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera on the instrument known as Ralph. The images were taken on nine different occasions from May 29-June 3, 2015. The movie is barycentric, meaning that both Pluto and Charon are shown in motion around the binary's barycenter - the shared center of gravity between the two bodies as they do a planetary jig. Because Pluto is much more massive than Charon, the barycenter (marked by a small "x" in the movie) is much closer to Pluto than to Charon. Looking closely at the images in this movie, one can detect a regular shift in Pluto's brightness-due to the brighter and darker terrains on its differing faces. Download Animated gif
  • So Far, All Clear: New Horizons Team Completes First Search for Pluto System Hazards
    This image shows the results of the New Horizons teams first search for potentially hazardous material around Pluto, conducted May 11-12, 2015, from a range of 47 million miles (76 million kilometers). The image combines 48 10-second exposures, taken with the spacecrafts Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), to offer the most sensitive view yet of the Pluto system. The left panel is a combination of the original images before any processing. The combined glare of Pluto and its large moon Charon in the center of the field, along with the thousands of background stars, overwhelm any faint moons or rings that might pose a threat to the New Horizons spacecraft. The central panel is the same image after extensive processing to remove Pluto and Charons glare and most of the background stars, revealing Plutos four small moons Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra as points of light. The right panel overlays the orbits and locations of all five moons, including Charon. Remaining unlabeled spots and blemishes in the processed image are imperfectly removed stars, including variable stars which appear as bright or dark dots. The faint grid pattern is an artifact of the image processing. Celestial north is up in these images.
  • More Detail as New Horizons Draws Closer
    The image of Pluto on the right is part of series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos taken May 8-12, 2015; the image at left shows LORRIs view of Pluto just one month earlier. In the month between these image sets, New Horizons distance to Pluto decreased from 68 million miles (110 million kilometers) to 47 million miles (75 million kilometers), as the spacecraft speeds toward a close encounter with the Pluto system in mid-July. All of the images have been rotated to align Pluto's rotational axis with the vertical direction (up-down), as depicted schematically in the center panel. Between April and May, Pluto appears to get larger as the spacecraft gets closer, with Pluto's apparent size increasing by approximately 50 percent. Pluto rotates around its axis every 6.4 Earth days, and these images show the variations in Pluto's surface features during its rotation. These images are displayed at four times the native LORRI image size, and have been processed using a method called deconvolution, which sharpens the original images to enhance features on Pluto. Deconvolution can occasionally add "false" details, so the finest details in these pictures will need to be confirmed by images taken from closer range in the next few weeks. All of the images are displayed using the same linear brightness scale.
  • More Detail as New Horizons Draws Closer
    The image of Pluto on the right is part of series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos taken May 8-12, 2015; the image at left shows LORRIs view of Pluto just one month earlier. In the month between these image sets, New Horizons distance to Pluto decreased from 68 million miles (110 million kilometers) to 47 million miles (75 million kilometers), as the spacecraft speeds toward a close encounter with the Pluto system in mid-July. All of the images have been rotated to align Pluto's rotational axis with the vertical direction (up-down), as depicted schematically in the center panel. Between April and May, Pluto appears to get larger as the spacecraft gets closer, with Pluto's apparent size increasing by approximately 50 percent. Pluto rotates around its axis every 6.4 Earth days, and these images show the variations in Pluto's surface features during its rotation. These images are displayed at four times the native LORRI image size, and have been processed using a method called deconvolution, which sharpens the original images to enhance features on Pluto. Deconvolution can occasionally add "false" details, so the finest details in these pictures will need to be confirmed by images taken from closer range in the next few weeks. All of the images are displayed using the same linear brightness scale.
  • More Detail as New Horizons Draws Closer
    The image of Pluto on the right is part of series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos taken May 8-12, 2015; the image at left shows LORRIs view of Pluto just one month earlier. In the month between these image sets, New Horizons distance to Pluto decreased from 68 million miles (110 million kilometers) to 47 million miles (75 million kilometers), as the spacecraft speeds toward a close encounter with the Pluto system in mid-July. All of the images have been rotated to align Pluto's rotational axis with the vertical direction (up-down), as depicted schematically in the center panel. Between April and May, Pluto appears to get larger as the spacecraft gets closer, with Pluto's apparent size increasing by approximately 50 percent. Pluto rotates around its axis every 6.4 Earth days, and these images show the variations in Pluto's surface features during its rotation. These images are displayed at four times the native LORRI image size, and have been processed using a method called deconvolution, which sharpens the original images to enhance features on Pluto. Deconvolution can occasionally add "false" details, so the finest details in these pictures will need to be confirmed by images taken from closer range in the next few weeks. All of the images are displayed using the same linear brightness scale.
  • That Makes Five
    The images detecting Kerberos and Styx shown here were taken with New Horizons most sensitive camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), from April 25-May 1, 2015. Each observation consists of five 10-second exposures that have been added together to make the image in the left panel, and extensively processed to reduce the bright glare of Pluto and Charon and largely remove the dense field of background stars (center and right panels), in order to reveal the faint satellites, whose positions and orbits, along with those of the brighter moons Nix and Hydra, are given in the right panel. Kerberos is visible in all of the images, though is partially obscured in the second image. Styx is not visible in the first image, only in subsequent ones; on April 25 it was obscured by electronic artifacts in the camera the black and white streaks extending to the right of the extremely overexposed images of Pluto and Charon in the center of the frame. These artifacts point in different directions in different images due to the varying orientation of the spacecraft. Other unlabeled features in the processed images include the imperfectly removed images of background stars and other residual artifacts. Although Styx and Kerberos are more visible in some frames than others, perhaps due to brightness fluctuations as they rotate on their axes, their identity is confirmed by their positions being exactly where they are predicted to be (in the center of the circles in the right panel).
  • First Pluto-Charon Color Image from New Horizons
    This image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on April 9 and downlinked to Earth the following day. It is the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. The image is a preliminary reconstruction, which will be refined later by the New Horizons science team. Clearly visible are both Pluto and the Texas-sized Charon. The image was made from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)-roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus. At this distance, neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved by the color imager, but their distinctly different appearances can be seen. As New Horizons approaches its flyby of Pluto on July 14, it will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.
  • A Long-Distance Look from LORRI
    Pluto and Charon, the largest of Pluto's five known moons, seen Jan. 25 and 27, 2015, through the telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons was about 126 million miles (203 million kilometers) from Pluto when the frames to make the first image were taken; about 1.5 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) closer for the second set. These images are the first acquired during the spacecraft's 2015 approach to the Pluto system, which culminates with a close flyby of Pluto and its moons on July 14. Pluto and Charon subtended 2 pixels and 1 pixel, respectively, in LORRI's field of view. The image was magnified four times to make Pluto and Charon more visible. The image exposure time was only a tenth of a second, which is too short to detect Pluto's smaller moons.
  • A Moon over Pluto
    This "movie" of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it raced toward Pluto in July 2014. Covering almost one full rotation of Charon around Pluto, the 12 images that make up the movie were taken July 19-24 with the spacecraft's best telescopic camera - the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) - at distances ranging from about 267 million to 262 million miles (429 million to 422 million kilometers). Charon is orbiting approximately 11,200 miles (about 18,000 kilometers) above Pluto's surface. Why the slight "wobble" of each body in the images? Pluto and Charon constitute a true binary planet - a more extreme example of the Earth-moon system. Because Charon is about 1/12th as massive as Pluto - the largest moon in the solar system relative to the planet it orbits - both Pluto and Charon orbit a gravity point (called a barycenter) between the pair. The movie's frames are centered on that point, showing the "barycentric wobble" of the system as Charon orbits. The National Academy of Sciences cited the binary nature of Pluto-Charon when ranking this mission highly for a new start in the early 2000s. Now, New Horizons is seeing the binary system beginning to emerge in its own cameras. In these distant images, Pluto is four LORRI pixels across, Charon just two pixels. In July 2015, during New Horizons' closest-approach to Pluto, a single LORRI pixel will show details the size of a football field, about 100 yards across. Read more about the images here >> Downloads: animated .gif | .avi | .mp4
  • A Moon over Pluto (Close up)
    This "movie" of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft as it raced toward Pluto in July 2014. Covering almost one full rotation of Charon around Pluto, the 12 images that make up the movie were taken July 19-24 with the spacecraft's best telescopic camera - the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) - at distances ranging from about 267 million to 262 million miles (429 million to 422 million kilometers). Charon is orbiting approximately 11,200 miles (about 18,000 kilometers) above Pluto's surface. Why the slight "wobble" of each body in the images? Pluto and Charon constitute a true binary planet - a more extreme example of the Earth-moon system. Because Charon is about 1/12th as massive as Pluto - the largest moon in the solar system relative to the planet it orbits - both Pluto and Charon orbit a gravity point (called a barycenter) between the pair. The movie's frames are centered on that point, showing the "barycentric wobble" of the system as Charon orbits. The National Academy of Sciences cited the binary nature of Pluto-Charon when ranking this mission highly for a new start in the early 2000s. Now, New Horizons is seeing the binary system beginning to emerge in its own cameras. Read more about the images here >> Downloads: animated .gif | .avi | .mp4
  • LORRI Looks Back
    New Horizons had an exciting flyby encounter with Jupiter in early 2007, and the spacecraft has been rapidly moving away from the giant planet ever since. The New Horizons team looked back at Jupiter during Annual Checkout (ACO)-4 to test the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI)'s ability to image targets close, in angle, to the Sun. This image was taken on June 24, 2010, when New Horizons was 16.3 astronomical units (about 1.5 billion miles) from Jupiter, at a spacecraft-Sun-planet angle of only 17 degrees. Looking like Earth's moon at a quarter phase, Jupiter is clearly resolved, with an apparent diameter of nearly 12 LORRI pixels. LORRI also picks up the moons Ganymede and Europa, even though the exposure time was only nine milliseconds and these Galilean satellites are extremely faint in comparison to Jupiter.
  • In Tune with Neptune
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) observed Neptune on June 23, apl2010, as part of a test of the critical optical navigation Annual Checkout (ACO)-4. In this 100-millisecond exposure, taken when the spacecraft was 23.2 astronomical units (about 2.15 billion miles) from Neptune, the planet appears slightly larger than a star. At the time of this observation, the solar phase angle (the spacecraft-planet-Sun angle) was 34 degrees and the solar elongation angle (planet-spacecraft -Sun angle) was 95 degrees. Only New Horizons can observe Neptune at such large solar phase angles, which can be used to study the light-scattering properties of Neptune's atmosphere.
  • Star Treatment
    The New Horizons team calibrates the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) by taking pictures of the open star cluster M7. This is the first LORRI image of M7 taken during Annual Checkout (ACO)-4; the 100-millisecond manual exposure was taken on June 25, 2010. A preliminary comparison of this image to a 2008 LORRI picture of M7 indicated no degradation or change in LORRI's performance.
  • Seeing Red
    This New Horizons image of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io was taken at 13:05 Universal Time during the spacecraft's Jupiter flyby on February 28, 2008. It shows the reddish color of the deposits from the giant volcanic eruption at the volcano Tvashtar, near the top of the sunlit crescent, as well as the bluish plume itself and the orange glow of the hot lava at its source. The relatively unprocessed image on the left provides the best view of the volcanic glow and the plume deposits, while the version on the right has been brightened to show the much fainter plume, and the Jupiter-lit night side of Io. New Horizons' color imaging of Io's sunlit side was generally overexposed because the spacecraft's color camera, the super-sensitive Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), was designed for the much dimmer illumination at Pluto. However, two of MVIC's four color filters, the blue and "methane" filter (a special filter designed to map methane frost on the surface of Pluto at an infrared wavelength of 0.89 microns), are less sensitive than the others, and thus obtained some well-exposed views of the surface when illumination conditions were favorable. Because only two color filters are used, rather than the usual three, and because one filter uses infrared light, the color is only a rough approximation to what the human eye would see. The red color of the Tvashtar plume fallout is typical of Io's largest volcanic plumes, including the previous eruption of Tvashtar seen by the Galileo and Cassini spacecraft in 2000, and the long-lived Pele plume on the opposite side of Io. The color likely results from the creation of reddish three-atom and four-atom sulfur molecules (S3 and S4) from plume gases rich in two-atom sulfur molecules (S2 After a few months or years, the S3 and S4 molecules recombine into the more stable and familiar yellowish form of sulfur consisting of eight-atom molecules (S8), so these red deposits are only seen around recently-active Io volcanos. Though the plume deposits are red, the plume itself is blue, because it is composed of very tiny particles that preferentially scatter blue light, like smoke. Also faintly visible in the left image is the pale-colored Prometheus plume, almost on the edge of the disk on the equator at the 9 o'clock position. Io was 2.4 million kilometers from the spacecraft when the picture was taken, and the center of Io's disk is at 77 degrees West longitude, 5 degrees South latitude. The solar phase angle was 107 degrees.
  • Pluto in Hi-Def
    This image demonstrates the first detection of Pluto using the high-resolution mode on the New Horizons Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The mode provides a clear separation between Pluto and numerous nearby background stars. When the image was taken on October 6, 2007, Pluto was located in the constellation Serpens, in a region of the sky dense with background stars. Typically, LORRI's exposure time in hi-res mode is limited to approximately 0.1 seconds, but by using a special pointing mode that allowed an increase in the exposure time to 0.967 seconds, scientists were able to spot Pluto, which is approximately 15,000 times fainter than human eyes can detect. New Horizons was still too far from Pluto (3.6 billion kilometers, or 2.2 billion miles) for LORRI to resolve any details on Pluto's surface that won't happen until summer 2014, approximately one year before closest approach. For now the entire Pluto system remains a bright dot to the spacecraft's telescopic camera, though LORRI is expected to start resolving Charon from Pluto seeing them as separate objects in summer 2010.
  • Io and Europa Meet Again
    This beautiful image of the crescents of volcanic Io and more sedate Europa is a combination of two New Horizons images taken March 2, 2007, about two days after New Horizons made its closest approach to Jupiter. A lower-resolution color image snapped by the Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) at 10:34 universal time (UT) has been merged with a higher-resolution black-and-white image taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 10:23 UT. The composite image shows the relative positions of Io and Europa, which were moving past each other during the image sequence, as they were at the time the LORRI image was taken. The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for their artistic (rather than scientific) value. This particular scene was suggested by space enthusiast Richard Hendricks of Austin, Texas, in response to an Internet request by New Horizons scientists for evocative, artistic imaging opportunities at Jupiter. This image was taken from a range of 4.6 million kilometers (2.8 million miles) from Io and 3.8 million kilometers (2.4 million miles) from Europa. Although the moons appear close together in this view, a gulf of 790,000 kilometers (490,000 miles) separates them. Io's night side is lit up by light reflected from Jupiter, which is off the frame to the right. Europa's night side is dark, in contrast to Io, because this side of Europa faces away from Jupiter. Here Io steals the show with its beautiful display of volcanic activity. Three volcanic plumes are visible. Most conspicuous is the enormous 300-kilometer (190-mile) high plume from the Tvashtar volcano at the 11 o'clock position on Io's disk. Two much smaller plumes are also visible: that from the volcano Prometheus, at the 9 o'clock position on the edge of Io's disk, and from the volcano Amirani, seen between Prometheus and Tvashtar along Io's terminator (the line dividing day and night). The Tvashtar plume appears blue because of the scattering of light by tiny dust particles ejected by the volcanoes, similar to the blue appearance of smoke. In addition, the contrasting red glow of hot lava can be seen at the source of the Tvashtar plume. The images are centered at 1 degree North, 60 degrees West on Io, and 0 degrees North, 149 degrees West on Europa. The color in this image was generated using individual MVIC images at wavelengths of 480, 620 and 850 nanometers. The human eye is sensitive to slightly shorter wavelengths, from 400 to 700 nanometers, and thus would see the scene slightly differently. For instance, while the eye would notice the difference between the yellow and reddish brown colors of Io's surface and the paler color of Europa, the two worlds appear very similar in color to MVIC's longer-wavelength vision. The night side of Io appears greenish compared to the day side, because methane in Jupiter's atmosphere absorbs 850 nanometer light and makes Jupiter-light green to MVIC's eyes.
  • Changes on Io
    A: A global map of Jupiter's moon Io derived from eight images taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons spacecraft, as it passed Jupiter on its way to Pluto in late February 2007. Details as small as 12 kilometers (7 miles) are visible. The map shows the comprehensive picture of Io's volcanism obtained by New Horizons. Yellow ovals denote areas with new, faded or shifted plume deposits since the last images taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 2001. Green circles denote areas where probable new lava flows have occurred. Cyan diamonds indicate locations of active volcanic plumes, and orange hexagons are volcanic hot spots detected by the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument. For plumes and hot spots, symbol size indicates the approximate relative size and brightness of the features. B-F: Comparison of New Horizons (NH) and earlier images of major surface changes discovered by New Horizons at Io's volcanoes Masubi (45 degrees S, 57 degrees West) and North Lerna (55 degrees S, 290 degrees W). The scale bars are 200 kilometers long, and a is the solar phase angle. At Masubi, old lava flows seen by Voyager and Galileo (B) have been obscured at low phase angles (C) by deposits from two active plumes associated with a new 240-kilometer (150-mile) long dark lava flow, which is the longest lava flow known to have been erupted in the solar system since the discovery of Io volcanism in 1979. At North Lerna, a recent eruption has generated a 130-km long lava flow (F), as well as an active plume that has produced a concentric pattern of deposits. This image appears in the Oct. 12, 2007, issue of Science magazine, in a paper by John Spencer, et al.
  • Ring Erosion
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  • Arc Discovery
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  • Ammonia Clouds on Jupiter
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  • Io Eclipse Montage
    New Horizons took this montage of images of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io, glowing in the dark of Jupiter's shadow, as the Pluto-bound spacecraft sped through the Jupiter system on Feb. 27, 2007. (A): In this picture from the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), dark blotches and straight lines are artifacts. The brightest spots (including the volcanoes Pele [P] and East Girru [EG]) are incandescent lava from active volcanoes. The more diffuse glows, and the many faint spots, are from gas in the plumes and atmosphere, glowing due to bombardment by plasma in Jupiter's magnetosphere, in a display similar to the Earth's aurorae. (B): The same image with a latitude/longitude grid, showing that the cluster of faint spots is centered near longitude 0 degrees, the point on Io that faces Jupiter. The image also shows the locations of the plumes seen in sunlit images (indicated by red diamonds), which glow with auroral emission in eclipse. (C): Simulated sunlit view of Io with the same geometry, based on sunlit LORRI images. (D): A combination of the sunlit image (in cyan) and the eclipse image (in red), showing that all point-like glows in the eclipse image arise from dark volcanoes in the eclipse image. (E): This infrared image, at a wavelength of 2.3 microns, obtained by New Horizons Linear Etalon Spectral Imaging Array (LEISA) an hour after the LORRI image, showing thermal emission from active volcanoes. Elongation of the hot spots is an artifact. (F): Combined visible albedo (cyan) and LEISA thermal emission (red) image, showing the sources of the volcanic emission. That most of the faint point-like glows near longitude zero, seen in visible light in images A, B, and D, do not appear in the infrared view of volcanic heat radiation, is one reason scientists believe that these glows are due to auroral emission, not heat radiation. This image appears in the Oct. 12, 2007, issue of Science magazine, in a paper by John Spencer, et al.
  • Jupiter-Io Montage
    This is a montage of New Horizons images of Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io, taken during the spacecraft's Jupiter flyby in early 2007. The Jupiter image is an infrared color composite taken by the spacecraft's near-infrared imaging spectrometer, the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) at 1:40 UT on Feb. 28, 2007. The infrared wavelengths used (red: 1.59 m, green: 1.94 m, blue: 1.85 m) highlight variations in the altitude of the Jovian cloud tops, with blue denoting high-altitude clouds and hazes, and red indicating deeper clouds. The prominent bluish-white oval is the Great Red Spot. The observation was made at a solar phase angle of 75 degrees but has been projected onto a crescent to remove distortion caused by Jupiter's rotation during the scan. The Io image, taken at 00:25 UT on March 1st 2007, is an approximately true-color composite taken by the panchromatic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), with color information provided by the 0.5 m (blue) and 0.9 m (methane) channels of the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image shows a major eruption in progress on Io's night side, at the northern volcano Tvashtar. Incandescent lava glows red beneath a 330-kilometer high volcanic plume, whose uppermost portions are illuminated by sunlight. The plume appears blue due to scattering of light by small particles in the plume. This montage appears on the cover of the Oct. 12, 2007 issue of Science magazine.
  • Tvashtar Montage
    The Tvashtar plume on Io, seen by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and by New Horizons. (A): The image in which the plume was discovered, taken by HST in ultraviolet light on Feb. 14, 2007, at a wavelength of 260 nm. The red diamond indicates location of the Tvashtar hot spot seen later by New Horizons. (B): An HST image of Io and the Tvashtar plume seen against Jupiter; sulfur gas in the plume absorbs ultraviolet light, making the plume look reddish in this color composite. The composite is composed of images taken at 260 nm (blue), 330 nm (green), and 410 nm (red). Other images in this montage are in visible light from the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The scale bar is 200 kilometers long and the yellow star indicates the projected location of the hot spot at the Tvashtar plume source. The dashed line is the terminator, the line dividing day from night on Io. (C): The highest-resolution view of the full plume, at a resolution of 12.4 kilometers (7.7 miles) per pixel and a solar phase angle of 102 degrees, showing the complex filamentary structure of the plume. The images are sharpened by un-sharp masking; the dark line at the edge of the disk is an artifact of this sharpening. (D): An image at 145-degree phase angle at 22.4 kilometers (13.8 miles) per pixel, showing the time variability of the details of the plume structure and its persistent bright top. (F-J): Sequence of frames at 2-minute intervals showing dynamics in the upper part of the plume (the source is on the far side of Io). Colored diamonds track individual features whose speeds, projected on the plane of the sky, are shown in (E). This image appears in the Oct. 12, 2007, issue of Science magazine, in a paper by John Spencer, et al.
  • Atmospheric Structure
    This is a composite of several images taken in several colors by the New Horizons Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera, or MVIC. It illustrates the remarkable diversity of structures in Jupiter's atmosphere, in colors similar to what someone "riding" on New Horizons would see. It was taken near the terminator, the boundary between day and night, and shows relatively small-scale, turbulent, whirlpool-like structures near the south pole of the planet. The dark "holes" in this region are actually places where there is very little cloud cover, so sunlight is not reflected back to the camera. Moving toward the equator, the atmospheric structures become more elongated in an east-west direction, taking on the familiar pattern of dark "belts" and light "zones." At the equator itself, a herringbone pattern of clouds known as "mesoscale waves" is apparent, especially near the edge of the terminator where the glancing angle of sunlight emphasizes the alternating dark and light North-South stripes. The energy to form these waves comes from deeper in Jupiter's atmosphere. This picture provides a vivid illustration that Jupiter's atmosphere has more color contrast than any other atmosphere in the solar system, including Earth's. Data obtained from these and other New Horizons images taken during the encounter will provide valuable insight into the processes occurring on this gas giant.
  • Atmospheric Waves
    With its Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), half of the Ralph instrument, New Horizons captured several pictures of mesoscale gravity waves in Jupiter's equatorial atmosphere. Buoyancy waves of this type are seen frequently on Earth - for example, they can be caused when air flows over a mountain and a regular cloud pattern forms downstream. In Jupiter's case there are no mountains, but if conditions in the atmosphere are just right, it is possible to form long trains of these small waves. The source of the wave excitation seems to lie deep in Jupiter's atmosphere, below the visible cloud layers at depths corresponding to pressures 10 times that at Earth's surface. The New Horizons measurements showed that the waves move about 100 meters per second faster than surrounding clouds; this is about 25% of the speed of sound on Earth and is much greater than current models of these waves predict. Scientists can read the speed and patterns these waves to learn more about activity and stability in the atmospheric layers below.
  • Ammonia Ice Clouds on Jupiter
    The top cloud layer on Jupiter is thought to consist of ammonia ice, but most of that ammonia hides from spectrometers. It does not absorb light in the same way ammonia does. To many scientists, this implies that ammonia churned up from lower layers of the atmosphere ages in some way after it condenses, possibly by being covered with a photochemically generated hydrocarbon mixture. The New Horizons Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), the half of the Ralph instrument that is able to see in infrared wavelengths that are absorbed by ammonia ice, spotted these clouds and watched them evolve over five Jupiter days (about 40 Earth hours). In these images, spectroscopically identified fresh ammonia clouds are shown in bright blue. The largest cloud appeared as a localized source on day 1, intensified and broadened on day 2, became more diffuse on days 3 and 4, and disappeared on day 5. The diffusion seemed to follow the movement of a dark spot along the boundary of the oval region. Because the source of this ammonia lies deeper than the cloud, images like these can tell scientists much about the dynamics and heat conduction in Jupiter's lower atmosphere.
  • Polar Lightning on Jupiter
    Images taken by the New Horizons Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) of Jupiter's night side showed lightning strikes. Each strike is probably the cumulative brightness of multiple strikes. This is the first lightning seen at high latitudes on Jupiter; it demonstrates that convection is not confined to lower latitudes, implying an internal driving heat source. Their power is consistent with previous lightning measurements at Jupiter's lower latitudes, equivalent to extremely bright terrestrial super bolts.
  • Tvashtar in Motion
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  • A 'Plumefall' on Io
    New Horizons took this image of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 15:15 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, nearly 10 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. The image is centered at Io coordinates 5 degrees south, 92 degrees west, and the spacecraft was 2.4 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) from Io. Io's diameter is 3,640 kilometers (2,262 miles). Io's dayside was deliberately overexposed in this image to bring out details on the nightside and in any volcanic plumes that might be present. Io cooperated by producing an enormous plume, 330 kilometers (200 miles) high, from the volcano Tvashtar. Near Io's north pole, Tvashtar was active throughout New Horizons' Jupiter encounter. In this image, volcanic debris from the plume, illuminated by the setting sun, rains down onto Io's nightside. Hot, glowing lava at the source of the plume is the bright point of light on the sunlit side of the terminator (the line separating day and night). Elsewhere along the terminator, mountains catch the setting sun. The nightside of Io is lit up by light reflected from Jupiter.
  • Tvashtar Movie
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  • Io Surface Changes
    This montage compares similar sides of Io photographed by the Galileo spacecraft in October 1999 (left) and the New Horizons spacecraft on February 27, 2007. The New Horizons image was taken with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) from a range of 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million miles). Most features on Io have changed little in the seven-plus years between these images, despite continued intense volcanic activity. The largest visible feature is the dark oval composed of deposits from the Pele volcano, nearly 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) across its longest dimension. At high northern latitudes, the volcano Dazhbog is prominent as a dark spot in the New Horizons image, near the edge of the disk at the 11 o'clock position. This volcano is much less conspicuous in the Galileo image. This darkening happened after this 1999 Galileo image but before Galileo took its last images of Io in 2001. A more recent change, discovered by New Horizons, can be seen in the southern hemisphere (circled). A new volcanic eruption near 55 degrees south, 290 degrees west has created a roughly circular deposit nearly 500 kilometers (300 miles) in diameter that was not seen by Galileo. Other New Horizons images show that the plume that created this deposit is still active. The New Horizons image is centered at Io coordinates 8 degrees south, 269 degrees west.
  • Io in Eclipse
    This unusual image shows Io glowing in the darkness of Jupiter's shadow. It is a combination of eight images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) between 14:25 and 14:55 Universal Time on February 27, 2007, about 15 hours before the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. North is at the top of the image. Io's surface is invisible in the darkness, but the image reveals glowing hot lava, auroral displays in Io's tenuous atmosphere and volcanic plumes across the moon. The three bright points of light on the right side of Io are incandescent lava at active volcanoes - Pele and Reiden (south of the equator), and a previously unknown volcano near 22 degrees north, 233 degrees west near the edge of the disk at the 2 o'clock position. An auroral glow, produced as intense radiation from Jupiter's magnetosphere bombards Io's atmosphere, outlines the edge of the moon's disk. The glow is patchy because the atmosphere itself is patchy, being denser over active volcanoes. In addition to the near-surface glow, there is a remarkable auroral glow suspended 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the edge of the disk at the 2 o'clock position; perhaps this glowing gas was ejected from the new volcano below it. Another glowing gas plume, above a fainter point of light, is visible just inside Io's disk near the 6 o'clock position; this plume is above another new volcanic eruption discovered by New Horizons. On the left side of the disk, near Io's equator, a cluster of faint dots of light is centered near the point on Io that always faces Jupiter. This is the region where electrical currents connect Io to Jupiter's magnetosphere. It is likely that electrical connections to individual volcanoes are causing the glows seen here, though the details are mysterious. Total exposure time for this image was 16 seconds. The range to Io was 2.8 million kilometers (1.7 million miles), and the image is centered at Io coordinates 7 degrees south, 306 degrees west. The image has been heavily processed to remove scattered light from Jupiter, but some artifacts remain, such as dark patches in the background.
  • Jupiter's Moons: Family Portrait
    This montage shows the best views of Jupiter's four large and diverse "Galilean" satellites as seen by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby of Jupiter in late February 2007. The four moons are, from left to right: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The images have been scaled to represent the true relative sizes of the four moons and are arranged in their order from Jupiter. Io, 3,640 kilometers (2,260 miles) in diameter, was imaged at 03:50 Universal Time on February 28 from a range of 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million miles). The original image scale was 13 kilometers per pixel, and the image is centered at Io coordinates 6 degrees south, 22 degrees west. Io is notable for its active volcanism, which New Horizons has studied extensively. Europa, 3,120 kilometers (1,938 miles) in diameter, was imaged at 01:28 Universal Time on February 28 from a range of 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles). The original image scale was 15 kilometers per pixel, and the image is centered at Europa coordinates 6 degrees south, 347 degrees west. Europa's smooth, icy surface likely conceals an ocean of liquid water. New Horizons obtained data on Europa's surface composition and imaged subtle surface features, and analysis of these data may provide new information about the ocean and the icy shell that covers it. New Horizons spied Ganymede, 5,262 kilometers (3,268 miles) in diameter, at 10:01 Universal Time on February 27 from 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles) away. The original scale was 17 kilometers per pixel, and the image is centered at Ganymede coordinates 6 degrees south, 38 degrees west. Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, has a dirty ice surface cut by fractures and peppered by impact craters. New Horizons' infrared observations may provide insight into the composition of the moon's surface and interior. Callisto, 4,820 kilometers (2,995 miles) in diameter, was imaged at 03:50 Universal Time on February 28 from a range of 4.2 million kilometers (2.6 million miles). The original image scale was 21 kilometers per pixel, and the image is centered at Callisto coordinates 4 degrees south, 356 degrees west. Scientists are using the infrared spectra New Horizons gathered of Callisto's ancient, cratered surface to calibrate spectral analysis techniques that will help them to understand the surfaces of Pluto and its moon Charon when New Horizons passes them in 2015.
  • Jupiter's Rings: Sharpest View
    The New Horizons spacecraft took the best images of Jupiter's charcoal-black rings as it approached and then looked back at Jupiter. The top image was taken on approach, showing three well-defined lanes of gravel- to boulder-sized material composing the bulk of the rings, as well as lesser amounts of material between the rings. New Horizons snapped the lower image after it had passed Jupiter on February 28, 2007, and looked back in a direction toward the sun. The image is sharply focused, though it appears fuzzy due to the cloud of dust-sized particles enveloping the rings. The dust is brightly illuminated in the same way the dust on a dirty windshield lights up when you drive toward a low sun. The narrow rings are confined in their orbits by small shepherding moons. The pictures were taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnsiassance Imager (LORRI), which, like the New Horizons spacecraft, was designed and built at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
  • Best Color Image of Jupiter's Little Red Spot
    This amazing color portrait of Jupiter's Little Red Spot (LRS) combines high-resolution images from the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken at 03:12 UT on February 27, 2007, with color images taken nearly simultaneously by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) on the Hubble Space Telescope. The LORRI images provide details as fine as 9 miles across (15 kilometers), which is approximately 10 times better than Hubble can provide on its own. The improved resolution is possible because New Horizons was only 1.9 million miles (3 million kilometers) away from Jupiter when LORRI snapped its pictures, while Hubble was more than 500 million miles (800 million kilometers) away from the Gas Giant planet. The Little Red Spot is the second largest storm on Jupiter, roughly 70% the size of the Earth, and it started turning red in late-2005. The clouds in the Little Red Spot rotate counterclockwise, or in the anticyclonic direction, because it is a high-pressure region. In that sense, the Little Red Spot is the opposite of a hurricane on Earth, which is a low-pressure region and, of course, the Little Red Spot is far larger than any hurricane on Earth. Scientists don't know exactly how or why the Little Red Spot turned red, though they speculate that the change could stem from a surge of exotic compounds from deep within Jupiter, caused by an intensification of the storm system. In particular, sulfur-bearing cloud droplets might have been propelled about 50 kilometers into the upper level of ammonia clouds, where brighter sunlight bathing the cloud tops released the red-hued sulfur embedded in the droplets, causing the storm to turn red. A similar mechanism has been proposed for the Little Red Spot's "older brother," the Great Red Spot, a massive energetic storm system that has persisted for over a century. New Horizons is providing an opportunity to examine an infant red storm system in detail, which may help scientists understand better how these giant weather patterns form and evolve.
  • Probing Storm Activity on Jupiter
    Scientists assume Jupiter's clouds are composed primarily of ammonia, but only about 1% of the cloud area displays the characteristic spectral fingerprint of ammonia. This composite of infrared images taken by the New Horizons Linear Etalon Infrared Spectral Imager (LEISA) captures several eruptions of this relatively rare breed of ammonia cloud and follows the evolution of the clouds over two Jovian days. (One day on Jupiter is approximately 10 hours, which is how long it takes Jupiter to make one complete rotation about its axis.) The New Horizons spacecraft was still closing in on the giant planet when it made these observations: Jupiter was 3.4 million kilometers (2.1 million miles) from the New Horizons spacecraft for the LEISA image taken at 19:35 Universal Time on February 26, 2007, and the distance decreased to 2.5 million kilometers (1.6 million miles) for the last image shown. LEISA's spatial resolution scale varied from approximately 210 kilometers (130 miles) for the first image to 160 kilometers (100 miles) for the last one. New Horizons scientists originally targeted the region slightly northwest (up and to the left) of the Great Red Spot to search for these special ammonia clouds because that's where they were most easily seen during infrared spectral observations made by the Galileo spacecraft. But unlike the churning, turbulent cloud structures seen near the Great Red Spot during the Galileo era, this region has been quieting down during the past several months and was unusually tranquil when New Horizons passed by. Nevertheless, LEISA managed to find other regions of fresh, upwelling ammonia clouds, and the temporal evolution of one such region is displayed in this figure. In the first image, a fresh ammonia cloud (the blue region) sprouts from between white clouds and a dark elongated region. This blue cloud subsequently stretches along the white-dark border in the next two images. These fresh ammonia clouds trace the strong upwelling of gases from the largely hidden depths of Jupiter to higher altitudes. Presumably, water is also being dragged up from below, and the subsequent condensation of that water, which is far more abundant than ammonia in Jupiter's atmosphere, into cloud droplets energizes the lower troposphere. LEISA produces images at infrared wavelengths, which is heat radiation that cannot be sensed by the human eye. These false color images were produced by putting images of Jupiter at wavelengths of 1.99 micrometers, 1.94 micrometers and 2.04 micrometers into the red, green and blue channels, respectively, of the image display. Ammonia has an absorption feature at 1.99 microns, and when the colors are combined in this way the fresh ammonia clouds take on a bluish hue.
  • Jupiter's High-Altitude Clouds
    The New Horizons Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) snapped this incredibly detailed picture of Jupiter's high-altitude clouds starting at 06:00 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, when the spacecraft was only 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from the solar system's largest planet. Features as small as 50 kilometers (30 miles) are visible. The image was taken through a narrow filter centered on a methane absorption band near 890 nanometers, a considerably redder wavelength than what the eye can see. Images taken through this filter preferentially pick out clouds that are relatively high in the sky of this gas giant planet because sunlight at the wavelengths transmitted by the filter is completely absorbed by the methane gas that permeates Jupiter's atmosphere before it can reach the lower clouds. The image reveals a range of diverse features. The south pole is capped with a haze of small particles probably created by the precipitation of charged particles into the polar regions during auroral activity. Just north of the cap is a well-formed anticyclonic vortex with rising white thunderheads at its core. Slightly north of the vortex are the tendrils of some rather disorganized storms and more pinpoint-like thunderheads. The dark measles that appear a bit farther north are actually cloud-free regions where light is completely absorbed by the methane gas and essentially disappears from view. The wind action considerably picks up in the equatorial regions where giant plumes are stretched into a long wave pattern. Proceeding north of the equator, cirrus-like clouds are shredded by winds reaching speeds of up to 400 miles per hour, and more pinpoint-like thunderheads are visible. Although some of the famous belt and zone structure of Jupiter's atmosphere is washed out when viewed at this wavelength, the relatively thin North Temperate Belt shows up quite nicely, as does a series of waves just north of the belt. The north polar region of Jupiter in this image has a mottled appearance, and the scene is not as dynamic as the equatorial and south polar regions. The intricate structures revealed in this image are exciting, but they are only part of the story. The New Horizons instruments have taken images of Jupiter at approximately 260 different wavelengths, providing essentially a three-dimensional view of Jupiter's atmosphere, since images at different wavelengths probe different altitudes. New Horizons is providing a wealth of data on this fascinating planet during this last close-up view of Jupiter until the middle of the next decade.
  • Shepherd Moons
    Click here to view this animation.
  • Ganymede in Visible and Infrared Light
    This montage compares New Horizons' best views of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, gathered with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and its infrared spectrometer, the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). LEISA observes its targets in more than 200 separate wavelengths of infrared light, allowing detailed analysis of their surface composition. The LEISA image shown here combines just three of these wavelengths - 1.3, 1.8 and 2.0 micrometers - to highlight differences in composition across Ganymede's surface. Blue colors represent relatively clean water ice, while brown colors show regions contaminated by dark material. The right panel combines the high-resolution grayscale LORRI image with the color-coded compositional information from the LEISA image, producing a picture that combines the best of both data sets. The LEISA and LORRI images were taken at 9:48 and 10:01 Universal Time, respectively, on February 27, 2007, from a range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles). The longitude of the disk center is 38 degrees west. With a diameter of 5,268 kilometers (3,273 miles), Ganymede is the largest satellite in the solar system.
  • Io in Eclipse 2
    This image of Io eclipsed by Jupiter's shadow is a combination of several images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) between 09:35 and 09:41 Universal Time on February 27, 2007, about 28 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. North is at the top of the image. In the darkness, only glowing hot lava, auroral displays in Io's tenuous atmosphere and the moon's volcanic plumes are visible. The brightest points of light in the image are the glow of incandescent lava at several active volcanoes. The three brightest volcanoes south of the equator are, from left to right, Pele, Reiden and Marduk. North of the equator, near the disk center, a previously unknown volcano near 22 degrees north, 233 degrees west glows brightly. (The dark streak to its right is an artifact.) The edge of Io's disk is outlined by the auroral glow produced as intense radiation from Jupiter's magnetosphere bombards the atmosphere. The glow is patchy because the atmosphere itself is patchy, being denser over active volcanoes. At the 1 o'clock position the giant glowing plume from the Tvashtar volcano rises 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the edge of the disk, and several smaller plumes are also visible as diffuse glows scattered across the disk. Bright glows at the edge of Io on the left and right sides of the disk mark regions where electrical currents connect Io to Jupiter's magnetosphere. New Horizons was 2.8 million kilometers (1.7 million miles) from Io when this picture was taken, and the image is centered at Io coordinates 2 degrees south, 238 degrees west. The image has been heavily processed to remove scattered light from Jupiter, but some artifacts remain, including a horizontal seam where two sets of frames were pieced together. Total exposure time for this image was 56 seconds.
  • Europa Rising
    New Horizons took this image of the icy moon Europa rising above Jupiter's cloud tops with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 11:48 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, six hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for artistic, rather than scientific, value. This particular scene was suggested by space enthusiast Richard Hendricks of Austin, Texas, in response to an Internet request by New Horizons scientists for evocative, artistic imaging opportunities at Jupiter. The spacecraft was 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Jupiter and 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) from Europa when the picture was taken. Europa's diameter is 3,120 kilometers (1,939 miles). The image is centered on Europa coordinates 5 degrees south, 6 degrees west. In keeping with its artistic intent - and to provide a more dramatic perspective - the image has been rotated so south is at the top.
  • Tvashtar Composite
    Variations in the appearance of the giant plume from the Tvashtar volcano on Jupiter's moon Io are seen in this composite of the best photos taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) during its Jupiter flyby in late February-early March 2007. New Horizons was fortunate to witness this unusually large plume during its brief Jupiter flyby; the Galileo Jupiter orbiter spent more than five years imaging the volcanic moon (between 1996 and 2001) without ever capturing such detailed pictures of a large Io plume. The plume is roughly 330 kilometers (200 miles) high. The cause of the fine wispy structure in the plume, which varies strikingly from image to image, is unknown, but these pictures may help scientists to understand the phenomenon. The pictures were taken at distances ranging from 3.1 to 2.3 million kilometers (1.9 to 1.4 million miles), but they have been scaled to show the plume at the same relative size in every frame. Illumination conditions also vary: in the final image, Io's shadow cuts across the plume and hides all but its topmost regions, and the glow of hot lava can be seen on the nightside at the source of the plume. The times of the images, from top to bottom, are: February 26, 18:38 (Universal Time); February 26, 21:01; February 28, 03:50; February 28, 04:40; February 28, 11:04; and March 1, 00:35.
  • Io Through Different 'Eyes'
    This montage demonstrates New Horizons' ability to observe the same target in complementary ways using its diverse suite of instruments. Previously released views taken at visible and slightly longer infrared wavelengths with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons' high-resolution black-and-white camera, and the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), its color camera, are here compared with a nearly simultaneous view from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), which observes its targets in more than 200 separate wavelengths of infrared light. This color LEISA view of Io (bottom right) combines three wavelength ranges, centered at 1.80, 2.04, and 2.31 micrometers. The LORRI image (left) shows fine details on Io's sunlit crescent and in the partially sunlit plume from the Tvashtar volcano, and reveals the bright nighttime glow of the hot lavas at the source of the Tvashtar plume. The MVIC image (top right) shows the contrasting colors of the red lava and blue plume at Tvashtar, and the sulfur and sulfur dioxide deposits on Io's sunlit surface. The LEISA image shows that the glow of the Tvashtar volcano is even more intense at infrared wavelengths and reveals the infrared glow of at least 10 fainter volcanic hot spots on the moon's nightside. The brightest of these, Amirani/Maui, which is visible to the lower right of Tvashtar, is less than 4% as bright as Tvashtar. All of these are long-lived hot spots that have been observed previously by the Galileo orbiter. Further analysis of the LEISA data will provide information on the volcanoes' temperatures, and data on the sunlit crescent of Io will reveal details of Io's surface composition. The LORRI, MVIC and LEISA images were taken March 1, 2007, at 00:35, 00:25 and 00:31 Universal Time, respectively, from a range of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles). The images are centered at Io coordinates 4 degrees south, 164 degrees west.
  • The Colors of Night
    The New Horizons Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) took this image of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io at 04:30 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, about one hour before New Horizons' closest approach to Jupiter, from a range of 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million miles). Part of the Ralph imaging instrument, MVIC is designed for the very faint solar illumination at Pluto, and is too sensitive to image the brightly lit daysides of Jupiter's moons. Io's dayside is therefore completely overexposed in this image, and appears white and featureless. However, the Jupiter-lit nightside of Io and the giant plume from the Tvashtar volcano are well exposed, and the versions of the image shown here have been processed to bring out each of these features. The scale of the original image is 53 kilometers (33 miles) per pixel; Io itself has a diameter of 3,630 kilometers (2,250 miles). The nightside of Io (left panel) is illuminated brightly enough by Jupiter to reveal many details in full color to MVIC's sensitive vision. The nightside color has been corrected to account for the greenish hue of Jupiter's light as seen by MVIC see the April 2 Featured Image of Io and Europa so the colors approximate what the human eye would see in daylight illumination. The image shows Io's reddish-brown polar areas and the yellow and white colors of its equatorial regions, mostly due to various forms of sulfur. Several dark volcanic centers are also visible the most prominent, appearing as an elongated spot just above and to the right of the disk's center, is called Fjorgynn. Near the disk center, just over the night side of the terminator (the line separating day and night), is a row of three or four pale yellow patches, which likely are volcanic plumes catching the setting sun. These features have caught the attention of New Horizons scientists because no major plumes have been seen previously in this region of Io, and it is rare for Io's plumes to cluster so closely together. The right panel shows the bluish color of the plume from Tvashtar, rising above the overexposed edge of Io's disk at the 11 o'clock position. The plume is blue because it contains fine dust that preferentially scatters blue light, in the same way that smoke appears blue. The red line on the edge of the disk, below the plume, is an artifact caused by the overexposure of Io's surface. The image is centered at Io coordinates 26 degrees west, 6 degrees south, and is produced using MVIC's blue, red and near-infrared filters. In the original image, the overexposure of Io's dayside hemisphere caused extensive electronic blooming of the image toward the left and bottom edges of the frame, and this has been removed from the versions shown here.
  • Capturing Callisto
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) captured these two images of Jupiter's outermost large moon, Callisto, as the spacecraft flew past Jupiter in late February. New Horizons' closest approach distance to Jupiter was 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles), not far outside Callisto's orbit, which has a radius of 1.9 million kilometers (1.2 million miles). However, Callisto happened to be on the opposite side of Jupiter during the spacecraft's pass through the Jupiter system, so these images, taken from 4.7 million kilometers (3.0 million miles) and 4.2 million kilometers (2.6 million miles) away, are the closest of Callisto that New Horizons obtained. Callisto's ancient, crater-scarred surface makes it very different from its three more active sibling satellites, Io, Europa and Ganymede. Callisto, 4,800 kilometers (3000 miles) in diameter, displays no large-scale geological features other than impact craters, and every bright spot in these images is a crater. The largest impact feature on Callisto, the huge basin Valhalla, is visible as a bright patch at the 10 o'clock position. The craters are bright because they have excavated material relatively rich in water ice from beneath the dark, dusty material that coats most of the surface. The two images show essentially the same side of Callisto - the side that faces Jupiter - under different illumination conditions. The images accompanied scans of Callisto's infrared spectrum with New Horizons' Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). The New Horizons science team designed these scans to study how the infrared spectrum of Callisto's water ice changes as lighting and viewing conditions change, and as the ice cools through Callisto's late afternoon. The infrared spectrum of water ice depends slightly on its temperature, and a goal of New Horizons when it reaches the Pluto system (in 2015) is to use the water ice features in the spectrum of Pluto's moon Charon, and perhaps on Pluto itself, to measure surface temperature. Callisto provided an ideal opportunity to test this technique on a much better-known body. The left image, taken at 05:03 Universal Time on February 27, 2007, is centered at 5 degrees south, 5 degrees west, and has a solar phase angle of 46 degrees. The right image was taken at 03:25 Universal Time on February 28, 2007. It is centered at 4 degrees south, 356 degrees west, and has a solar phase angle of 76 degrees.
  • Two Moons Meet over Jupiter
    This beautiful image of the crescents of volcanic Io and more sedate Europa was snapped by New Horizons' color Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) at 10:34 UT on March 2, 2007, about two days after New Horizons made its closest approach to Jupiter. The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for their artistic, rather than scientific value. This particular scene was suggested by space enthusiast Richard Hendricks of Austin, Texas, in response to an Internet request by New Horizons scientists for evocative, artistic imaging opportunities at Jupiter. This image was taken from a range of 4.6 million kilometers (2.8 million miles) from Io and 3.8 million kilometers (2.4 million miles) from Europa. Although the moons appear close in this view, a gulf of 790,000 kilometers (490,000 miles) separates them. The night side of Io is illuminated here by light reflected from Jupiter, which is out of the frame to the right. Europa's night side is completely dark, in contrast to Io, because that side of Europa faces away from Jupiter. Here, Io steals the show with its beautiful display of volcanic activity. Three volcanic plumes are visible. Most conspicuous is the enormous 300-kilometer (190-mile) -high plume from the Tvashtar volcano at the 11 o'clock position on Io's disk. Two much smaller plumes are barely visible: one from the volcano Prometheus, at the 9 o'clock position on the edge of Io's disk, and one from the volcano Amirani, seen between Prometheus and Tvashtar along Io's terminator (the line dividing day and night). The plumes appear blue because of the scattering of light by tiny dust particles ejected by the volcanoes, similar to the blue appearance of smoke. In addition, the contrasting red glow of hot lava can be seen at the source of the Tvashtar plume. The images are centered at 1 degree north, 60 degrees west on Io, and 0 degrees north, 149 degrees west on Europa. The color in this image was generated using individual MVIC images at wavelengths of 480, 620 and 850 nanometers. The human eye is sensitive to slightly shorter wavelengths, from 400 to 700 nanometers, and thus would see the scene slightly differently. For instance, while the eye would notice the difference between the yellow and reddish brown colors of Io's surface and the paler color of Europa, the two worlds appear very similar in color to MVIC's longer-wavelength vision. The night side of Io appears greenish compared to the day side, because methane in Jupiter's atmosphere absorbs 850-nanometer light and makes Jupiter-light green to MVIC's "eyes." MVIC is a component of the Ralph imaging instrument.
  • Storm Spectra
    These images, taken with the LEISA infrared camera on the New Horizons Ralph instrument, show fine details in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere using light that can only be seen using infrared sensors. These are "false color" pictures made by assigning infrared wavelengths to the colors red, green and blue. LEISA (Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array) takes images across 250 IR wavelengths in the range from 1.25 to 2.5 microns, allowing scientists to obtain an infrared spectrum at every location on Jupiter. A micron is one millionth of a meter. These pictures were taken at 05:58 UT on February 27, 2007, from a distance of 2.9 million kilometers (1.6 million miles). They are centered at 8 degrees south, 32 degrees east in Jupiter "System III" coordinates. The large oval-shaped feature is the well-known Great Red Spot. The resolution of each pixel in these images is about 175 kilometers (110 miles); Jupiter's diameter is approximately 145,000 kilometers (97,000 miles). The image on the left is an altitude map made by assigning the color red to 1.60 microns, green to 1.89 microns and blue to 2.04 microns. Because Jupiter's atmosphere absorbs light strongly at 2.04 microns, only clouds at very high altitude will reflect light at this wavelength. Light at 1.89 microns can go deeper in the atmosphere and light at 1.6 microns can go deeper still. In this map, bluish colors indicate high clouds and reddish colors indicate lower clouds. This picture shows, for example, that the Great Red Spot extends far up into the atmosphere. In the image at right, red equals 1.28 microns, green equals 1.30 microns and blue equals 1.36 microns, a range of wavelengths that similarly probes different altitudes in the atmosphere. This choice of wavelengths highlights Jupiter's high-altitude south polar hood of haze. The edge of Jupiter's disk at the bottom of the panel appears slightly non-circular because the left-hand portion is the true edge of the disk, while the right portion is defined by the day/night boundary (known as the terminator). These two images illustrate only a small fraction of the information contained in a single LEISA scan, highlighting just one aspect of the power of infrared spectra for atmospheric studies.
  • A Burst of Color
    New Horizons captured this unique view of Jupiter's moon Io with its color camera - the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) - at 00:25 UT on March 1, 2007, from a range of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles). The image is centered at Io coordinates 4 degrees south, 162 degrees west, and was taken shortly before the complementary Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photo of Io released on March 13, which had higher resolution but was not in color. Like that LORRI picture, this processed image shows the nighttime glow of the Tvashtar volcano and its plume rising 330 kilometers (200 miles) into sunlight above Io's north pole. However, the MVIC picture reveals the intense red of the glowing lava at the plume source and the contrasting blue of the fine dust particles in the plume (similar to the bluish color of smoke), as well as more subtle colors on Io's sunlit crescent. The lower parts of the plume in Io's shadow, lit only by the much fainter light from Jupiter, are almost invisible in this rendition. Contrast has been reduced to show the large range of brightness between the plume and Io's disk. A component of the Ralph imaging instrument, MVIC has three broadband color filters: blue (480 nanometers), red (620 nm) and infrared (850 nm); as well as a narrow methane filter (890 nm). Because the camera was designed for the dim illumination at Pluto, not the much brighter sunlight at Jupiter, the red and infrared filters are overexposed on Io's dayside. This image is therefore composed from the blue and methane filters only, and the colors shown are only approximations to those that the eye would see. Nevertheless, the human eye would easily see the red color of the volcano and the blue color of the plume.
  • LORRI Takes an Even Closer Look at the Little Red Spot
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has returned stunning new images of Jupiter's Little Red Spot, obtained as a 2-by-2 mosaic at 0312 UTC on February 27, 2007, from a distance of 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles). The image scale is 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) per pixel. By comparison, team members say, ground-based and Earth-orbiting imagers rarely do better than 200-kilometer (130-mile) resolution on Jupiter. "These LORRI images of the Little Red Spot are amazing in their detail," says New Horizons Project Scientist Dr. Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where the spacecraft and LORRI camera were designed and built. "They show the early stages of this newly reddened storm system with a resolution that far surpasses anything available until now." LORRI took this mosaic 9 hours - or not quite one Jupiter rotation period - after snapping its previous images of the Little Red Spot on Feb 26, 2007, at a longer range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles) and at a lower resolution of 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) per pixel. The new mosaic was obtained with the Little Red Spot closer to the center of the visible disk of Jupiter, so there is less foreshortening and better illumination. The Little Red Spot is an Earth-sized storm on Jupiter that changed its color from white to red in 2005. Swimming to the east, its clouds rotate counterclockwise (or in the anticyclonic direction), meaning that it is a high-pressure region. In that sense, the Little Red Spot is the opposite of a hurricane on Earth, which is a low-pressure region - and it is of course much larger than any hurricane on Earth. Scientists don't know exactly how or why the storm turned red - though they speculate that the change could stem from a surge of exotic compounds from deep within Jupiter, caused by an intensification of the storm system. In particular, sulfur-bearing cloud droplets might have been propelled about 50 kilometers into the upper level of ammonia clouds, where brighter sunlight bathing the cloud tops released the red-hued sulfur embedded in the droplets - causing the storm to turn red. A similar mechanism has been proposed for the Little Red Spot's "big brother," the Great Red Spot, a massive energetic storm system that has existed for centuries. The smaller, brighter oval to the south of the Little Red Spot is another storm moving more rapidly to the east, as can be seen by comparing the previous mosaic to the newer one. Any feature that moved by as much as 100 pixels between the earlier mosaic and the new one - as many features have done - has shifted at an average relative speed faster than 95 miles per hour, indicating hurricane force winds. The awesome violence of the storms in Jupiter's atmosphere contrasts with the serene isolation of New Horizons' LORRI, snapping pictures from millions of miles away. "The new images are further proof that LORRI is one of the best imagers ever flown on a planetary mission," says Dr. Andy Cheng, the LORRI principal investigator from the Applied Physics Laboratory, "and more delights are yet to come."
  • Alice Views Jupiter and Io
    This graphic illustrates the pointing and shows the data from one of many observations made by the New Horizons Alice ultraviolet spectrometer (UVS) instrument during the Pluto-bound spacecraft's recent encounter with Jupiter. The red lines in the graphic show the scale, orientation, and position of the combined "box and slot" field of view of the Alice UVS during this observation. The positions of Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io, the torus of ionized gas from Io, and Jupiter are shown relative to the Alice field of view. Like a prism, the spectrometer separates light from these targets into its constituent wavelengths. "These ultraviolet datasets are spectacular, simply spectacular," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, who also serves as PI of the Alice instrument. "The team is ecstatic over the richness of the spectral data and what that promises to reveal about Io's complex relationship with Jupiter." Dr. Kurt Retherford, New Horizons science team collaborator from the Southwest Research Institute, said, "The Alice team aimed the instrument's field of view to simultaneously obtain spectra of three major targets in the Jupiter system: the moon Io, the ionized gas torus Io creates around Jupiter, and Jupiter itself." Io's volcanoes produce an extremely tenuous atmosphere made up primarily of sulfur dioxide gas, which, in the harsh plasma environment at Io, breaks down into its component sulfur and oxygen atoms. Alice observed the auroral glow from these atoms in Io's atmosphere and their ionized counterparts in the Io torus. "This UV observation of Io surpasses those from all previous spacecraft to visit Jupiter in terms of signal quality and wavelength coverage, and this is only the first of roughly 80 such spectra to be downlinked to Earth," said Retherford. "The Alice observations of Jupiter's upper atmosphere can tell us much about the concentrations of gases there."
  • A Look from LEISA
    On February 24, 2007, the LEISA (pronounced "Leesa") infrared spectral imager in the New Horizons Ralph instrument observed giant Jupiter in 250 narrow spectral channels. At the time the spacecraft was 6 million kilometers (nearly 4 million miles) from Jupiter; at that range, the LEISA imager can resolve structures about 400 kilometers (250 miles) across. That may seem large, mission scientists say, but Jupiter itself is more than 144,000 kilometers (89,000 miles) across. "The detail revealed in these images is simply stunning," says Dr. Dennis Reuter, Ralph/LEISA project scientist and a New Horizons co-investigator from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Our instrument is performing spectacularly well." LEISA observes in 250 infrared wavelengths, which range from 1.25 micrometers (m) to 2.50 m. The three images shown above from that dataset are at wavelengths of 1.27 m (left), 1.53 m (center) and 1.88 m (right). The bright areas in the image frames are caused by solar radiation reflected from clouds and hazes in Jupiter's atmosphere. Dark areas correspond to atmospheric regions where solar radiation is absorbed before it can be reflected. The dark circular feature in the upper left of all three images is the shadow of Jupiter's innermost large moon, Io. Light at 1.53 m (center frame) comes from relatively high in the atmosphere. The other two channels probe deeper atmospheric levels. Features that are bright in all three pictures come from high-altitude clouds. Features that are bright in the 1.27 and 1.88 m channels, but darker in the 1.53-m channel come from lower clouds. For example, there is an isolated circular feature (the "Little Red Spot") in the lower left of the 1.53-m image. In the 1.27 and 1.88 m data, this circular feature is surrounded by other structures. The implication is that the "Little Red Spot" is caused by a system that extends far up into the atmosphere, while other structures are lower. "The three frames shown here are just a sampling of what LEISA returned in this dataset," says Dr. Don Jennings, LEISA principal investigator and a New Horizons co-investigator from NASA Goddard. "Combining data from all 250 channels will allow us to make detailed three-dimensional maps of the composition and circulation of the Jovian atmosphere." At closest approach to Jupiter on February 28, at a distance of about 2.5 million kilometers (1.4 million miles), LEISA's resolution was about three times better than it was on February 24. LEISA images made at that far-better resolution are still stored in the spacecraft's data recorder, awaiting downlink from New Horizons.
  • A Midnight Plume
    The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons captured another dramatic picture of Jupiter's moon Io and its volcanic plumes, 19 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter on Feb. 28, 2007. LORRI took this 75 millisecond exposure at 0035 Universal Time on March 1, 2007, when Io was 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from the spacecraft. Io's dayside is deliberately overexposed to bring out faint details in the plumes and on the moon's night side. The continuing eruption of the volcano Tvashtar, at the 1 o'clock position, produces an enormous plume roughly 330 kilometers (200 miles) high, which is illuminated both by sunlight and "Jupiter light." The shadow of Io, cast by the Sun, slices across the plume. The plume is quite asymmetrical and has a complicated wispy texture, for reasons that are still mysterious. At the heart of the eruption incandescent lava, seen here as a brilliant point of light, is reminding scientists of the fire fountains spotted by the Galileo Jupiter orbiter at Tvashtar in 1999. The sunlit plume faintly illuminates the surface underneath. "New Horizons and Io continue to astonish us with these unprecedented views of the solar system's most geologically active body" says John Spencer, deputy leader of the New Horizons Jupiter Encounter Science Team and an Io expert from Southwest Research Institute. Because this image shows the side of Io that faces away from Jupiter, the large planet does not illuminate the moon's night side except for an extremely thin crescent outlining the edge of the disk at lower right. Another plume, likely from the volcano Masubi, is illuminated by Jupiter just above this lower right edge. A third and much fainter plume, barely visible at the 2 o'clock position, could be the first plume seen from the volcano Zal Patera. As in other New Horizons images of Io, mountains catch the setting Sun just beyond the terminator (the line dividing day and night). The most prominent, seen as a bright vertical line, is the edge of a plateau about 4.5 kilometers (15,000 feet) high, similar in altitude to the Colorado Rockies. Io itself has a diameter of 3,630 kilometers (about 2,250 miles). The image is centered at Io coordinates 4 degrees S, 165 degrees W. It has been processed to reduce contrast, in order to show details over the full 1000-to-1 brightness range of the original data.
  • Jupiter's Rings
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter's ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles). This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. "This is one of the clearest pictures ever taken of Jupiter's faint ring system," says Dr. Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer from the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who planned many of the ring images. "The ring looks different from what we expected it has usually appeared much wider." Showalter suggests that the ring's largest boulders are corralled into a narrow belt by the influence of Jupiter's two innermost moons, Adrastea and Metis. The ring also appears to darken in the middle, a possible hint that a smaller, undiscovered moon is clearing out a gap. "If there is a smaller moon within those rings, we hope to see it in some of the hundreds of additional images that New Horizons will transmit back to Earth over the next several weeks," says Dr. Andy Cheng, LORRI principal investigator from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. Click here for an annotated version of the image. Showalter adds that the faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the "halo," a cloud of dust that extends down to Jupiter's cloud tops. The dust will glow much brighter in pictures taken after New Horizons passes to the far side of Jupiter and looks back at the rings, which will then be sunlit from behind. Jupiter's ring system was discovered in 1979, when astronomers spied it in a single image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Months later, Voyager 2 carried out more extensive imaging of the system. It has since been examined by NASA's Galileo and Cassini spacecraft, as well as by the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based observatories.
  • Tvashtar's Plume
    This dramatic image of Io was taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons at 11:04 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, just about 5 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. The distance to Io was 2.5 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) and the image is centered at 85 degrees west longitude. At this distance, one LORRI pixel subtends 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) on Io. This processed image provides the best view yet of the enormous 290-kilometer (180-mile) high plume from the volcano Tvashtar, in the 11 o'clock direction near Io's north pole. The plume was first seen by the Hubble Space Telescope two weeks ago and then by New Horizons on February 26; this image is clearer than the February 26 image because Io was closer to the spacecraft, the plume was more backlit by the Sun, and a longer exposure time (75 milliseconds versus 20 milliseconds) was used. Io's dayside was deliberately overexposed in this picture to image the faint plumes, and the long exposure also provided an excellent view of Io's night side, illuminated by Jupiter. The remarkable filamentary structure in the Tvashtar plume is similar to details glimpsed faintly in 1979 Voyager images of a similar plume produced by Io's volcano Pele. However, no previous image by any spacecraft has shown these mysterious structures so clearly. The image also shows the much smaller symmetrical fountain of the plume, about 60 kilometers (or 40 miles) high, from the Prometheus volcano in the 9 o'clock direction. The top of a third volcanic plume, from the volcano Masubi, erupts high enough to catch the setting Sun on the night side near the bottom of the image, appearing as an irregular bright patch against Io's Jupiter-lit surface. Several Everest-sized mountains are highlighted by the setting Sun along the terminator, the line between day and night. This is the last of a handful of LORRI images that New Horizons is sending "home" during its busy close encounter with Jupiter - hundreds of images and other data are being taken and stored onboard. The rest of the images will be returned to Earth over the coming weeks and months as the spacecraft speeds along to Pluto.
  • Europa
    This image of Jupiter's icy moon Europa, the first Europa image returned by New Horizons, was taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera at 07:19 Universal Time on February 27, from a range of 3.1 million kilometers (1.9 million miles). The longitude of the disk center is 307 degrees West and the image scale is 15 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel. This is one of a series of images designed to look for landforms near Europa's terminator - the line dividing day and night - where low Sun angles highlight subtle topographic features. Europa's fractured icy surface is thought to overlie an ocean about 100 kilometers (60 miles) below the surface, and the New Horizons team will be analyzing these images for clues about the nature of the icy crust and the forces that have deformed it. Europa is about the size of Earth's moon, with a diameter of 3,130 kilometers (1.945 miles). This is one of a handful of images of the Jupiter system already returned by New Horizons during its close approach to Jupiter. Most of the data being gathered by the spacecraft are stored onboard and will be downlinked to Earth during March and April 2007.
  • Ganymede
    This is New Horizons' best image of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera at 10:01 Universal Time on February 27 from a range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles). The longitude of the disk center is 38 degrees West and the image scale is 17 kilometers (11 miles) per pixel. Dark patches of ancient terrain are broken up by swaths of brighter, younger material, and the entire icy surface is peppered by more recent impact craters that have splashed fresh, bright ice across the surface. With a diameter of 5,268 kilometers (3.273 miles), Ganymede is the largest satellite in the solar system. This is one of a handful of Jupiter system images already returned by New Horizons during its close approach to Jupiter. Most of the data being gathered by the spacecraft are stored onboard and will be downlinked to Earth during March and April 2007.
  • The Little Red Spot: Closest View Yet
    This is a mosaic of three New Horizons images of Jupiter's Little Red Spot, taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera at 17:41 Universal Time on February 26 from a range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.1 million miles). The image scale is 17 kilometers (11 miles) per pixel, and the area covered measures 33,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) from top to bottom, two and one-half times the diameter of Earth. The Little Red Spot, a smaller cousin of the famous Great Red Spot, formed in the past decade from the merger of three smaller Jovian storms, and is now the second-largest storm on Jupiter. About a year ago its color, formerly white, changed to a reddish shade similar to the Great Red Spot, perhaps because it is now powerful enough to dredge up reddish material from deeper inside Jupiter. These are the most detailed images ever taken of the Little Red Spot since its formation, and will be combined with even sharper images taken by New Horizons 10 hours later to map circulation patterns around and within the storm. LORRI took the images as the Sun was about to set on the Little Red Spot. The LORRI camera was designed to look at Pluto, where sunlight is much fainter than it is at Jupiter, so the images would have been overexposed if LORRI had looked at the storm when it was illuminated by the noonday Sun. The dim evening illumination helped the LORRI camera obtain well-exposed images. The New Horizons team used predictions made by amateur astronomers in 2006, based on their observations of the motion of the Little Red Spot with backyard telescopes, to help them accurately point LORRI at the storm. These are among a handful of Jupiter system images already returned by New Horizons during its close approach to Jupiter. Most of the data being gathered by the spacecraft are stored onboard and will be downlinked to Earth during March and April 2007.
  • Full Jupiter Mosaic
    This image of Jupiter is produced from a 2x2 mosaic of photos taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), and assembled by the LORRI team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The telescopic camera snapped the images during a 3-minute, 35-second span on February 10, when the spacecraft was 29 million kilometers (18 million miles) from Jupiter. At this distance, Jupiter's diameter was 1,015 LORRI pixels - nearly filling the imager's entire (1,024-by-1,024 pixel) field of view. Features as small as 290 kilometers (180 miles) are visible. Both the Great Red Spot and Little Red Spot are visible in the image, on the left and lower right, respectively. The apparent "storm" on the planet's right limb is a section of the south tropical zone that has been detached from the region to its west (or left) by a "disturbance" that scientists and amateur astronomers are watching closely. At the time LORRI took these images, New Horizons was 820 million kilometers (510 million miles) from home - nearly 5 times the distance between the Sun and Earth. This is the last full-disk image of Jupiter LORRI will produce, since Jupiter is appearing larger as New Horizons draws closer, and the imager will start to focus on specific areas of the planet for higher-resolution studies.
  • A 'Moving' Jupiter Global Map
    Click here to view this animation.
  • Jupiter Atmospheric Map
    Huge cyclonic storms, the Great Red Spot and the Little Red Spot, and wispy cloud patterns are seen in fascinating detail in this map of Jupiter's atmosphere obtained January 14-15, 2007, by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). The map combines information from 11 different LORRI images that were taken every hour over a 10-hour period - a full Jovian day - from 17:42 UTC on January 14 to 03:42 UTC on January 15. The New Horizons spacecraft was approximately 72 million kilometers (45 million miles) from Jupiter at the time. The LORRI pixels on the "globe" of Jupiter were projected onto a rectilinear grid, similar to the way flat maps of Earth are created. The LORRI pixel intensities were corrected so that every point on the map appears as if the sun were directly overhead; some image sharpening was also applied to enhance detail. The polar regions of Jupiter are not shown on the map because the LORRI images do not sample those latitudes very well and artifacts are produced during the map-projection process. Several small convective events appear in the north equatorial belt, stretching between (approximately) 10 to 20 degrees north latitude. "In the past, these events have been associated with lightning and thunderstorm-like activity," says Dr. Amy Simon-Miller, a Jupiter atmosphere expert from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. She adds that the equatorial zone remains active with many plumes in the north and a few in the south, and she sees less of the thick, high, white clouds that have been prevalent since the 1980s. The south tropical zone also continues to show increased activity 100 degrees west of the Great Red Spot, and to the northeast of the Little Red Spot, which is located at approximately 230 degrees W and 30 degrees S. The area immediately west of the Great Red Spot remains quiescent at the time.
  • Storms and Moons
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager took this 2-millisecond exposure of Jupiter at 04:41:04 UTC on January 24, 2007. The spacecraft was 57 million kilometers (35.3 million miles) from Jupiter, closing in on the giant planet at 41,500 miles (66,790 kilometers) per hour. At right are the moons Io (bottom) and Ganymede; Ganymede's shadow creeps toward the top of Jupiter's northern hemisphere. Two of Jupiter's largest storms are visible; the Great Red Spot on the western (left) limb of the planet, trailing the Little Red Spot on the eastern limb, at slightly lower latitude. The Great Red Spot is a 300-year old storm more than twice the size of Earth. The Little Red Spot, which formed over the past decade from the merging of three smaller storms, is about half the size of its older and "greater" counterpart.
  • Io and Ganymede
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager took this 4-millisecond exposure of Jupiter and two of its moons at 01:41:04 UTC on January 17, 2007. The spacecraft was 68.5 million kilometers (42.5 million miles) from Jupiter, closing in on the giant planet at 41,500 miles (66,790 kilometers) per hour. The volcanic moon Io is the closest planet to the right of Jupiter; the icy moon Ganymede is to Io's right. The shadows of each satellite are visible atop Jupiter's clouds; Ganymede's shadow is draped over Jupiter's northwestern limb. Ganymede's average orbit distance from Jupiter is about 1.07 million kilometers (620,000 miles); Io's is 422,000 kilometers (262,000 miles). Both Io and Ganymede are larger than Earth's moon; Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury.
  • Moons around Jupiter
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took this photo of Jupiter and two of its moons at 19:42:01 UTC on January 9, 2007, when the spacecraft was 80 million kilometers (49.6 million miles) from the giant planet. The volcanic moon Io is to the left of the planet and the icy moon Ganymede is to the right. Ganymede's average orbit distance from Jupiter is about 1 million kilometers (620,000 miles); Io's is 422,000 kilometers (262,000 miles). Both Io and Ganymede are larger than Earth's moon; Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury.
  • Ganymede's Shadow
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took this photo of Jupiter at 20:42:01 UTC on January 9, 2007, when the spacecraft was 80 million kilometers (49.6 million miles) from the giant planet. The volcanic moon Io is to the left of the planet; the shadow of the icy moon Ganymede moves across Jupiter's northern hemisphere. Ganymede's average orbit distance from Jupiter is about 1 million kilometers (620,000 miles); Io's is 422,000 kilometers (262,000 miles). Both Io and Ganymede are larger than Earth's moon; Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury.
  • A Day on Jupiter
    Click here to view this animation.
  • Jupiter Rotation (Video)
    Click here to view this animation.
  • On Approach: Jupiter and Io
    This image was taken on Jan. 8, 2007, with the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), while the spacecraft was about 81 million kilometers (about 50 million miles) from Jupiter. Jupiter's volcanic moon Io is to the right; the planet's Great Red Spot is also visible. The image was one of 11 taken during the Jan. 8 approach sequence, which signaled the opening of the New Horizons Jupiter encounter. Even in these early approach images, Jupiter shows different face than what previous visiting spacecraft - such as Voyager 1, Galileo and Cassini - have seen. Regions around the equator and in the southern tropical latitudes seem remarkably calm, even in the typically turbulent "wake" behind the Great Red Spot. The New Horizons science team will scrutinize these major meteorological features - including the unexpectedly calm regions - to understand the diverse variety of dynamical processes on the solar system's largest planet. These include the newly formed Little Red Spot, the Great Red Spot and a variety of zonal features.
  • New Horizons Sees Pluto (Sept. 24)
    A white arrow marks Pluto in this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) picture taken Sept. 24, 2006. Seen at a distance of about 4.2 billion kilometers (2.6 billion miles) from the spacecraft, Pluto is little more than a faint point of light among a dense field of stars. Mission scientists knew they had Pluto in their sights when LORRI detected an unresolved "point" in Pluto's predicted position, moving at the planet's expected motion across the constellation of Sagittarius near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • New Horizons Sees Pluto (Sept. 21)
    A white arrow marks Pluto in this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) picture taken Sept. 21, 2006. Seen at a distance of about 4.2 billion kilometers (2.6 billion miles) from the spacecraft, Pluto is little more than a faint point of light among a dense field of stars. Mission scientists knew they had Pluto in their sights when LORRI detected an unresolved "point" in Pluto's predicted position, moving at the planet's expected motion across the constellation of Sagittarius near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • New Horizons Sees Pluto (Animated GIF)
    Click here to view this animation.
  • Jupiter Ahoy!
    The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this photo of Jupiter on Sept. 4, 2006, from a distance of 291 million kilometers (nearly 181 million miles) away. Visible in the image are belts, zones and large storms in Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the Jovian moons Europa (at left) and Io and the shadows they cast on Jupiter. LORRI snapped this image during a test sequence to help prepare for the Jupiter encounter observations. It was taken close to solar opposition, meaning that the Sun was almost directly behind the camera when it spied Jupiter. This makes Jupiter appear about 40 times brighter than Pluto will be for LORRI's primary observations when New Horizons encounters the Pluto system in 2015. To avoid saturation, the camera's exposure time was kept to 6 milliseconds. This image was, in part, a test to see how well LORRI would operate with such a short exposure time.
  • Jupiter Labeled
    The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this photo of Jupiter on Sept. 4, 2006, from a distance of 291 million kilometers (nearly 181 million miles) away. Visible in the image are belts, zones and large storms in Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the Jovian moons Europa (at left) and Io and the shadows they cast on Jupiter. LORRI snapped this image during a test sequence to help prepare for the Jupiter encounter observations. It was taken close to solar opposition, meaning that the Sun was almost directly behind the camera when it spied Jupiter. This makes Jupiter appear about 40 times brighter than Pluto will be for LORRI's primary observations when New Horizons encounters the Pluto system in 2015. To avoid saturation, the camera's exposure time was kept to 6 milliseconds. This image was, in part, a test to see how well LORRI would operate with such a short exposure time.
  • New Horizons Tracks an Asteroid
    The two "spots" in this image are a composite of two images of asteroid 2002 JF56 taken on June 11 and June 12, 2006, with the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of the New Horizons Ralph imager. In the bottom image, taken when the asteroid was about 3.36 million kilometers (2.1 million miles) away from the spacecraft, 2002 JF56 appears like a dim star. At top, taken at a distance of about 1.34 million kilometers (833,000 miles), the object is more than a factor of six brighter. The best current, estimated diameter of the asteroid is approximately 2.5 kilometers. The asteroid observation was a chance for the New Horizons team to test the spacecraft's ability to track a rapidly moving object. On June 13 New Horizons came to within about 102,000 kilometers of the small asteroid, when the spacecraft was nearly 368 million kilometers (228 million miles) from the Sun and about 273 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.

New Horizons News Feed Pluto News Updates 

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  • No Sleeping Back on Earth!
    The New Horizons spacecraft might be hibernating through summer, but the mission team has plenty to do! Principal Investigator Alan Stern covers the full range of upcoming activities, including observations of 2014 MU69 – our next target in the Kuiper Belt
  • Nap Time for New Horizons: NASA Spacecraft Enters Hibernation
    New Horizons has eased into a long summer's nap, entering a hibernation phase on April 7 that will last until early September.
  • New Horizons Halfway from Pluto to Next Flyby Target
    Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, New Horizons has now traveled half the distance from Pluto – its storied first target – to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object it will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019.
  • New Co-Investigators Add Depth to New Horizons Team
    With New Horizons speeding toward its next target – a New Year's Day 2019 encounter with 2014 MU69 – mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern and NASA have added some new expertise to the team's roster.
  • New Horizons, IAU Set Pluto Naming Themes
    The International Astronomical Union has approved themes submitted by NASA's New Horizons team for naming surface features on Pluto and its moons.
  • New Horizons Exits Brief Safe Mode, Recovery Operations Continue
    New Horizons is operating normally after just over 24 hours in a protective "safe mode," the result of a command-loading error that occurred early Thursday. The spacecraft is healthy and continues to speed along toward its next target.
  • New Horizons Team Earns NASA, International Awards
    The New Horizons team recently earned additional recognition for its historic work on the first mission to Pluto.
  • New Horizons Refines Course for Next Flyby
    The NASA spacecraft completed a short propulsive maneuver Wednesday to refine its track toward a New Year's Day 2019 flyby past Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.
  • A Colorful 'Landing' on Pluto
    What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie, made from more than 100 New Horizons images, offers a "trip" down to the shoreline of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planitia.
  • Facebook Live to Mark Success, Future of New Horizons
    New Horizons team members will discuss the achievements of the Pluto encounter and look ahead to the mission's next exploration during a Facebook Live event at 4 p.m. EST on Jan. 19 -- the 11th anniversary of the spacecraft's launch.
  • Clouds in My Coffee: Exploring Pluto and the Wild Back Yonder!
    As 2016 ends, the New Horizons mission is at the halfway perch between two milestones. PI Alan Stern looks back on the success of the Pluto flyby and previews the work ahead in the Kuiper Belt, leading up to the flyby of 2104 MU69 in January 2019.
  • Scientists Probe Mystery of Pluto's Icy Heart
    Scientists are offering several new scenarios to explain the formation of Pluto's Sputnik Planitia, the frozen heart-shaped feature first spotted by New Horizons in 2015.
  • New Horizons Returns Last Bits of 2015 Flyby Data
    New Horizons reached a major milestone this week when the last bits of science data from the Pluto flyby – stored on the spacecraft's digital recorders since July 2015 – arrived safely on Earth.
  • New Horizons Team Receives Planetary Society Award
    The New Horizons Team has received The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science.
  • New Horizons: Possible Clouds on Pluto, Next Target Is Reddish
    From possible clouds on Pluto to the first color detections on New Horizons' next flyby target, mission scientists cover a range of Pluto and Kuiper Belt findings this week at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and European Planetary Science Congress joint meeting in Pasadena, California.
  • X-ray Detection Sheds New Light on Pluto
    New Horizons scientists using the Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. The observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system's outermost regions.
  • Pluto 'Paints' its Largest Moon Red
    After months of analysis, New Horizons scientists say they have found the likely source of the reddish material covering the poles of Pluto's moon Charon - Pluto itself. They publish their results this week in the journal Nature.
  • New Horizons Spies a Kuiper Belt Companion
    New Horizons is doing some sightseeing along the way to its 2019 date with an ancient object in the Kuiper Belt known as 2014 MU69.
  • Pluto's Methane Snowcaps on the Edge of Darkness
    The southernmost part of Pluto that New Horizons could "see" during closest approach contains a range of fascinating geological features, and offers clues into what might lurk in the regions shrouded in darkness during the flyby.
  • Blog: What a Journey!
    Now that most of the science data from the Pluto encounter have been downlinked to Earth, New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver says it seems only fitting to reflect on the long journey that took us to the frontier of our solar system. He shares some of his personal memories from this incredible voyage of discovery.
  • New Horizons Pluto Stamp Earns Guinness World Record
    The 1991 "Pluto Not Yet Explored" stamp on board the New Horizons spacecraft has earned a Guinness World Record for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp.
  • Video: Imagine a Landing on Pluto
    Imagine a future spacecraft following New Horizons' trailblazing path to Pluto, but instead of flying past its target – as New Horizons needed to do to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond – the next visitor touches down near the tall mountains on the frozen icy, plains of Pluto's heart.
  • Looking Back, a Year after Pluto
    A year after the New Horizons mission made science and space exploration history – the exploration of Pluto completed the era of first reconnaissance of the planets begun by NASA in 1962 – the spacecraft is now nearly 300 million miles beyond Pluto, speeding toward its next target in the Kuiper Belt and not looking back.
  • Exploration Ahead!
    When Principal Investigator Alan Stern tweeted on the morning of July 1 that the mission team was exactly 2.5 years from a hoped-for Kuiper Belt object flyby, little did he know that NASA would announce its approval of the flyby later that day.
  • Blog: Rewriting the Playbook on Pluto
    Through all the mission planning and activity, New Horizons scientists were certain that they were going to rewrite textbooks based on what they found at Pluto. Science team member Richard Binzel writes about the team's plans to revise the granddaddy text book of them all.
  • The Jagged Shores of Pluto's Highlands
    A new enhanced color image from New Horizons zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto's great ice plains, where the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula.
  • Secrets Revealed from Pluto's 'Twilight Zone'
    New Horizons took this stunning image only minutes after passing Pluto; looking back at Pluto with images like this gives scientists information about Pluto's hazes and surface properties that they can't get from images taken on approach.
  • Pluto's Heart: Like a Cosmic 'Lava Lamp'
    Like a cosmic lava lamp, a large section of Pluto's icy surface is being constantly renewed by a process called convection that replaces older surface ices with fresher material.
  • New Pluto and Planetary Stamps Wow at World Stamp Show
    Breathtaking images of New Horizons and Pluto got a stamp of approval from the U.S. Postal Service, which unveiled striking new Forever stamps on May 31.
  • New Horizons' Best Close-Up of Pluto's Surface
    Check out the most detailed view of Pluto's surface you'll likely see for a long time. A new mosaic includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by New Horizons from the July 2015 Pluto flyby.
  • Blog: Behind the Lens at New Horizons' Pluto Flyby
    Scientist Henry Throop, who pointed his camera at his friends and colleagues during the New Horizons Pluto encounter, shares some of his favorite images from this epic journey to the frontier of the solar system.
  • Pluto's 'Fretted' Terrain
    New Horizons scientists have spotted an expanse of terrain they describe as "fretted," and unlike anything they've seen on Pluto so far.
  • New Horizons Collects First Science on a Post-Pluto Object
    Warming up for a possible extended mission as it speeds through deep space, New Horizons spacecraft has now twice observed Kuiper Belt object 1994 JR1. Science team members have used these observations to reveal new facts about this distant remnant of the early solar system.
  • First Stellar Occultations Shed Additional Light on Pluto's Atmosphere
    First Stellar Occultations Shed Additional Light on Pluto's Atmosphere
  • Kudos Continue for New Horizons Mission Accomplishments
    New Horizons is hundreds of millions of miles and almost 10 months beyond its exploration of Pluto – but here on Earth, the honors for that historic achievement continue.
  • Icy Hydra
    The first compositional data on Pluto's four small satellites show the surface of Hydra, Pluto's outermost small moon, is dominated by nearly pristine water ice.
  • Study: Pluto's Interaction with the Solar Wind is Unique
    Pluto behaves less like a comet than expected and somewhat more like a planet like Mars or Venus in the way it interacts with the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles from the sun. This is according to the first analysis of Pluto's interaction with the solar wind, funded by NASA's New Horizons mission and published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
  • Blog: Planning for Pluto with GeoVis
    How does the New Horizons team choose where to point the spacecraft's science instruments? Planetary scientist Henry Throop writes about his role as the developer and maintainer of GeoViz, which is the software tool the science team uses for planning observations.
  • New Elevation Map of Pluto's Sunken 'Heart'
    The newest shaded relief view of the region surrounding the left side of Pluto's heart-shaped feature shows that the vast expanse of the icy surface is, on average, two miles lower than the surrounding terrain.
  • Pluto's 'Halo' Craters
    Within Pluto's informally named Vega Terra region is a field of eye-catching craters that looks like a cluster of bright halos scattered across a dark landscape.
  • To Boldly Go On, In the Service of Exploration
    With his eyes on the future, Principal Investigator Alan Stern describes the mission's proposal to NASA to continue the exploration by New Horizons. The proposed effort covers nearly two billion more miles of space and includes a KBO close flyby in 2019.
  • The Icy 'Spider' on Pluto
    Sprawling across Pluto's icy landscape is an unusual geological feature that resembles a giant spider.
  • New Horizons Fills Gap in Space Environment Observations
    Stunning images of Pluto are the most famous result from New Horizons, but the spacecraft also sent back over three years' worth of measurements of the solar wind - the constant flow of solar particles that the sun flings out into space - from a region that has been visited by only a few spacecraft.
  • Pluto's Bladed Terrain in 3-D
    The "bladed" terrain just east of Tombaugh Regio is one of the strangest landforms on Pluto – get some 3-D glasses and see for yourself!
  • Pluto: On Frozen Pond
    New Horizons spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time when liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.
  • New Horizons Team Presents Latest Pluto Science Results at Planetary Conference
    New Horizons scientists will present nearly 40 reports on the Pluto system this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, starting with a media briefing on Monday at noon CDT.
  • New Horizons Team Earns Prestigious Space Science, Engineering Honors
    The team behind NASA's New Horizons mission earned several honors this month for its historic accomplishments.
  • Research Papers in Science Reveal New Aspects of Pluto and Its Moons
    In the March 18 issue of journal Science, New Horizons scientists publish the first comprehensive set of papers describing results from last summer's Pluto system flyby. The papers revealing the former "astronomer's planet" to be a real world with diverse and active geology, exotic surface chemistry, a complex atmosphere, puzzling interaction with the sun and an intriguing system of small moons.
  • What's Eating at Pluto?
    New Horizons scientists have discovered what looks like a giant bite-mark on Pluto's surface.
  • Blog: The Polygons of Pluto
    Undergrad Katie Knight, who works with the New Horizons team to map some of Pluto's unusual terrain, provides some insight into the geological features known as polygonal blocks.
  • Methane Snow on Pluto's Peaks
    The New Horizons team has discovered that a chain of snow-capped mountains stretches across the dark expanse on Pluto informally named Cthulhu Regio.
  • Blog: Where's My Data? Keeping Track of New Horizons' Treasure of Information
    Last summer's historic Pluto flyby generated a wealth of science data, capturing this new world which had never before been explored. Science Operations Team member Emma Birath describes the science of bringing all that data "home" from the New Horizons spacecraft.
  • The Frozen Canyons of Pluto's North Pole
    Data from New Horizons tells yet another story of Pluto's diversity of geological and compositional features-this time in an enhanced color image of the north polar area.
  • Pluto's 'Hulk-like' Moon Charon: A Possible Ancient Ocean?
    Pluto's largest moon may have gotten too big for its own skin. New Horizons images suggest that Charon once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing out on the moon's surface and causing it to stretch and fracture on a massive scale.
  • Happy Valentine's Day from New Horizons!
    Show how much you care with these special valentines - featuring the solar system's most famous heart!
  • Putting Pluto's Geology on the Map
    The surface of Pluto possesses an astonishing and unexpected geological diversity. New Horizons scientists construct geological maps to help make sense of this complexity and to piece together how Pluto's surface has formed and evolved over time.
  • Pluto's Mysterious, Floating Hills
    The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear to carry an intriguing cargo: numerous, isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Pluto's surrounding uplands. These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across.
  • Blog: Pluto Flyby, through the Eyes of an Early Career Scientist
    Student Dust Counter team member Marcus Piquette recalls the amazement of the New Horizons' Pluto flyby.
  • Winters Named New Horizons Project Manager
    The New Horizons mission has a new project manager; Helene Winters has assumed the role from Glen Fountain.
  • Pluto's Widespread Water Ice
    New data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft point to more prevalent water ice on Pluto's surface than previously thought.
  • Pluto's Blue Atmosphere in the Infrared
    New Horizons has provided the first look at Pluto's atmosphere in infrared wavelengths, and the first image of the atmosphere made with data from the New Horizons Ralph/LEISA instrument.
  • The Voyage of a Lifetime: New Horizons Marks 10 Years Since Launch
    Ten years ago today one of the great robotic explorers of our age rocketed into the sky above the Florida coastline.
  • Wright's Stuff
    New Horizons scientists have assembled the highest-resolution color view of Wright Mons, one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on Pluto's surface.
  • Pluto's Haze in Bands of Blue
    Peer into the blue layers of Pluto's atmosphere in this high-resolution color image constructed from Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera data.
  • 'X' Marks a Curious Corner on Pluto's Icy Plains
    "X" marks the spot of some intriguing surface activity in the latest picture of Pluto returned from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.
  • Particles 'Go with the Flow' on Pluto's Surface
    Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have combined data from two instruments to create this composite image of Pluto's informally named Viking Terra area.
  • Looking Back at the "Year of Pluto"
    The New Horizons spacecraft will mark New Year's some 125 million miles beyond Pluto, far removed from the excitement of its historic flight through the Pluto system that made 2015 the year a small world on the planetary frontier captured our hearts.
  • Our 'Annus Mirabilis'
    The year 1905 was said to be Albert Einstein's annus mirabilis - his "miracle year"- in which he published papers that set the stage for modern physics. That phrase comes to the mind of mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern when he thinks of 2015 and New Horizons; it's been our miracle year.
  • Blog: Where Math Meets Pluto
    Mission scientist Orkan Umurhan provides some insight on the work and make-up of the New Horizons Geology and Geophysics Investigation team.
  • New Findings from New Horizons Shape Understanding of Pluto and its Moons
    Five months after NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto to take the first images and measurements of this icy world and its system of satellites, knowledge about this distant system continues to unfold.
  • Pluto's Close-up, Now in Color
    A new enhanced color mosaic combines some of the sharpest views of Pluto that New Horizons obtained during its July 14 flyby.
  • Zooming in on Pluto's Pattern of Pits
    On July 14, the telescopic camera on New Horizons took the highest-resolution images ever obtained of the intricate pattern of pits across a section of Pluto's prominent heart-shaped region.
  • A Distant Close-up: New Horizons' Camera Captures a Wandering KBO
    New Horizons has taken the closest images ever of a distant Kuiper Belt object - demonstrating its ability to observe numerous such bodies over the next several years if NASA approves an extended mission.
  • New Horizons Returns the First of Its Very Best Images of Pluto
    New Horizons has sent back the first few of its sharpest views of Pluto - and the images is image sequence forms the best close-ups of Pluto that humans may see for decades.
  • Blog: Pluto, Closer to Home
    Planetary scientist Veronica Bray says comparing Pluto with other planetary bodies helps her to understand what processes could be operating on Pluto's surface and beneath its icy crust. In particular, a pair of features on Pluto remind her of landforms on Earth and Mars.
  • A Day on Pluto, a Day on Charon
    On approach to the Pluto system in July 2015, the cameras on New Horizons captured Pluto and its moon Charon rotating over the course of a full day.
  • Blog: Radio Signals from Earth Probe Pluto's Atmosphere
    How does New Horizons use radio science to learn about Pluto's atmosphere? Science team member Will Woods writes about his role in this key process.
  • At Pluto, New Horizons Finds Geology of All Ages, Possible Ice Volcanoes, Insight into Planetary Origins
    From possible ice volcanoes to geologically diverse surfaces to oddly behaving moons that could have formed through mergers of smaller moons, Pluto system discoveries continue to surprise scientists on NASA's New Horizons mission team.
  • New Horizons Completes Record-Setting Kuiper Belt Targeting Maneuvers
    New Horizons performed the last in a series of four targeting maneuvers that set it on course for a potential January 2019 encounter with Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69.
  • Blog: In the Shadows of Pluto and Charon
    Researcher Josh Kammer – who primarily studies atmospheres – writes that the most exciting observations made by New Horizons this past summer were the solar occultations by Pluto and Charon. Achieving the required alignment of spacecraft, planet and the sun during an occultation was a difficult challenge – especially when there was a significant amount of uncertainty in the exact position of Pluto at the moment of New Horizons' flyby.
  • The Youngest Crater on Charon?
    New Horizons scientists have discovered a striking contrast between one of the fresh craters on Pluto's largest moon Charon and a neighboring crater dotting the moon's Pluto-facing hemisphere.
  • On Track: New Horizons Carries Out Third KBO Targeting Maneuver
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has successfully completed the third in a series of four maneuvers propelling it toward an encounter with the ancient Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, a billion miles farther from the sun than Pluto.
  • New Horizons Continues Toward Potential Kuiper Belt Target
    New Horizons has carried out the second of four planned maneuvers propelling it toward the ancient Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.
  • New Horizons Team Bids Farewell to Bob Farquhar
    NASA's New Horizons team was saddened by the recent passing of one of its own, Bob Farquhar.
  • Blog: A Planet for All Seasons
    New Horizons science team member Alissa Earle writes about the long-term seasonal variations that may be affecting what we see on Pluto's surface.
  • Maneuver Moves New Horizons toward Next Potential Target
    New Horizons has carried out the first in a series of four initial targeting maneuvers to send it toward a small Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69.
  • Last of Pluto's Moons - Mysterious Kerberos - Revealed by New Horizons
    Just-received images of tiny Kerberos complete the family portrait of Pluto's moons.
  • NASA's 'Pluto Time' Connects People with Science
    NASA has unveiled mosaics of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, representing the global response to its popular “#PlutoTime” social media campaign. The Pluto Time concept and widget was developed by the New Horizons science team so that people could experience the approximate sunlight level on Pluto at noon—generally around dawn or dusk on Earth.
  • Science Paper Describes Pluto System Findings
    From Pluto's unusual heart-shaped region to its extended atmosphere and intriguing moons, the New Horizons mission has revealed a degree of diversity and complexity in the Pluto system that few expected.
  • Blog: The Impact of Craters
    Researcher Kelsi Singer writes that impact craters may just look like holes in the ground, but amazingly, they can offer all sorts of clues to a planet's history.
  • New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto
    The first color images of Pluto's atmospheric hazes, returned by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft last week, reveal that the hazes are blue.
  • Blog: Pluto's Small Moons Nix and Hydra
    New Horizons postdoctoral researcher Simon Porter writes that new images of Pluto's moons remind us Pluto is not just one body, but an entire system of worlds.
  • Charon Reveals a Colorful and Violent History
    New Horizons has returned the best color and the highest resolution images yet of Pluto's largest moon, Charon - and these pictures show a surprisingly complex and violent history.
  • Blog: Pluto at Twilight
    Science team member Alex Parker writes how scientists are working to understand what New Horizons images tell them about the hazes in and dynamics of Pluto's atmosphere.
  • Perplexing Pluto: New 'Snakeskin' Image and More from New Horizons
    The newest high-resolution images of Pluto from New Horizons are both dazzling and mystifying, revealing a multitude of previously unseen topographic and compositional details.
  • Blog: Art Meets Science in New Pluto Aerial Tour
    Science team member Stuart Robbins tells how he created his coolest Pluto flyover video yet.
  • Pluto 'Wows' in Spectacular New Backlit Panorama
    The latest images from New Horizons - with their breathtaking views of Pluto's majestic icy mountains, streams of frozen nitrogen and haunting low-lying hazes - have strangely familiar, arctic look.
  • New Pluto Images from New Horizons: It's Complicated
    New close-up images of Pluto reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity.
  • Blog: Probing the Mystery of Charon's Red Pole
    Researcher Carly Howett is digging into the many different features across the surface of Pluto's largest moon, Charon.
  • New Horizons Begins Intensive Data Downlink Phase
    If you liked the first historic images of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, you'll love what's to come. The process of downlinking data all the data from the Pluto flyby moves into high gear on Sept. 5.
  • New Horizons Team Identifies Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target
    NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.
  • Blog: Making the Pluto Flyby Movie
    What was it like to fly past Pluto? New Horizons scientist Stuart Robbins explains how he created a true spacecraft's eye view.
  • Scientists Study Nitrogen Provision for Pluto's Atmosphere
    New Horizons data reveals diverse features on Pluto's surface and an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen gas. However, Pluto's small mass allows hundreds of tons of atmospheric nitrogen to escape into space each hour.
  • Atmospheric Escape and Flowing N2 Ice Glaciers - What Resupplies Pluto's Nitrogen?
    Blog post from researcher Kelsi Singer examines the sources of Pluto's nitrogen.
  • Thank You!
    Mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern says "thank you" to the thousands of who congratulated the New Horizons team through the White House website.
  • New Horizons Team Finds Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto
    Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from NASA's New Horizons mission, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.
  • Have a Minute? Get the Video Scoop on New Horizons and Pluto
    If you have a minute, the New Horizons team has the answers to your questions about the first mission to Pluto – thanks to "Pluto in a Minute."
  • New Horizons Finds Second Mountain Range in Pluto's 'Heart'
    A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto's Tombaugh Regio, situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain.
  • New Horizons 'Captures' Two of Pluto's Smaller Moons
    While Pluto's largest moon, Charon, has grabbed most of the lunar spotlight, two of Pluto's smaller and lesser-known satellites are starting to come into focus via new images from New Horizons.
  • NASA's New Horizons Discovers Frozen Plains in the Heart of Pluto's ‘Heart'
    In the latest data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto's icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named “Tombaugh Regio” (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.
  • Pluto Wags its Tail
    New Horizons has discovered a region of cold, dense ionized gas tens of thousands of miles beyond Pluto -- the planet's atmosphere being stripped away by the solar wind and lost to space.
  • New Horizons Reveals Pluto's Extended Atmosphere
    Scientists working with NASA's New Horizons spacecraft have observed Pluto's atmosphere as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) above the surface of the planet, demonstrating that Pluto's nitrogen-rich atmosphere is quite extended. This is the first observation of Pluto's atmosphere at altitudes higher than 170 miles above the planet's surface (270 kilometers).
  • NASA to Release New Pluto Images, Science Findings at July 17 NASA TV Briefing
    NASA will hold a media briefing at 1 p.m. EDT Friday, July 17, to reveal new images of Pluto and discuss new science findings from Tuesday's historic flyby.
  • From Mountains to Moons
    Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced Wednesday by the NASA's New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft's first ever Pluto flyby.
  • NASA's New Horizons ‘Phones Home' Safe after Pluto Flyby
    The call everyone was waiting for is in. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft phoned home just before 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday to tell the mission team and the world it had accomplished the historic first-ever flyby of Pluto.
  • Pluto and Charon Shine in False Color
    New Horizons has obtained impressive new images of Pluto and its large moon Charon that highlight their compositional diversity. These are not actual color images of Pluto and Charon—they are shown here in exaggerated colors that make it easy to note the differences in surface material and features on each planetary body.
  • NASA's Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto Reaches Historic Encounter
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is at Pluto. After a decade-long journey through our solar system, New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto Tuesday, about 7,750 miles above the surface -- roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India – making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth.
  • New Horizons Spacecraft Displays Pluto's Big Heart
    Three billion miles away, Pluto has sent a “love note” back to Earth, via NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. At about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13 - some 16 hours before closest approach - New Horizons captured this stunning image of one of Pluto's most dazzling and dominant features.
  • How Big Is Pluto? New Horizons Settles Decades-Long Debate
    NASA's New Horizons mission has answered one of the most basic questions about Pluto—its size.Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates.
  • One Million Miles to Go; Pluto is More Intriguing than Ever
    As NASA's unmanned New Horizons spacecraft speeds closer to a historic July 14 Pluto flyby, it's continuing to multi-task, producing images of an icy world that's growing more fascinating and complex every day.
  • Charon's Chasms and Craters
    New Horizons' newest images reveal Pluto's largest moon Charon to be a world of chasms and craters.
  • The Women who Power NASA's New Horizons Mission to Pluto
    When Fran Bagenal began her career working on NASA's Voyager mission to the outer planets, she was among just a handful of women on the team.
  • New Horizons' Last Portrait of Pluto's Puzzling Spots
    Three billion miles from Earth and just two and a half million miles from Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has taken its best image of four dark spots that continue to captivate.
  • Pluto by Moonlight
    It's Antarctic winter on Pluto. The sun has not been visible for twenty years in this frigid south polar region; it will not shine again for another 80 years. The only source of natural light is starlight and moonlight from Pluto's largest moon, Charon.
  • Houston, We Have Geology
    It began as a point of light. Then, it evolved into a fuzzy orb. Now - in its latest portrait from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft - Pluto is being revealed as an intriguing new world with distinct surface features, including an immense dark band known as the "whale."
  • The Children of Pluto
    Sometimes it was to gaze upon a planet, and sometimes it was to see a brilliant cluster of stars. If Annette and Alden Tombaugh weren't asleep by the time their father came home from work, chances are he'd have them peer through one of the telescopes in the backyard of their Las Cruces, New Mexico home. "You've got to look at this!" he'd exclaim.
  • Pluto and Charon: New Horizons' Dynamic Duo
    They're a fascinating pair: Two icy worlds, spinning around their common center of gravity like a pair of figure skaters clasping hands. Scientists believe they were shaped by a cosmic collision billions of years ago, and yet, in many ways, they seem more like strangers than siblings.
  • A 'Heart' from Pluto as Flyby Begins
    After a more than nine-year, three-billion-mile journey to Pluto, it's showtime for NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, as the flyby sequence of science observations is officially underway.
  • A space physicist's view of Pluto
    Why would a space physicist study Pluto? PEPSSI instrument scientist Matt Hill can't wait to get a look at the energetic particle environment New Horizons expects to encounter.
  • The Whale and the Donut
    A new map gives New Horizons mission scientists an important tool to decipher the complex and intriguing pattern of bright and dark markings on Pluto's surface
  • New Horizons on Track for Pluto Flyby
    The recovery from an anomaly that sent the New Horizons spacecraft into safe mode is proceeding according to plan, with the mission team preparing to return to normal science operations July 7.
  • Latest Views of Pluto
    These are the most recent high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, including one showing the four mysterious dark spots on Pluto that have captured the imagination of the world.
  • New Horizons Plans July 7 Return to Normal Science Operations
    The New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly, and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto.
  • New Horizons Team Responds to Spacecraft Anomaly
    The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly this afternoon that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.
  • Pluto and Charon Surfaces in Living Color
    Now playing: The first movie created by New Horizons to reveal color surface features of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
  • The 'Other' Red Planet
    What color is Pluto? The answer, revealed in the first maps made from New Horizons data, turns out to be shades of reddish brown.
  • Color Images Reveal Two Distinct Faces of Pluto, Series of Spots that Fascinate
    New color images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced.
  • NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Stays the Course to Pluto
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is getting a final "all clear" as it speeds closer to its historic July 14 flyby of Pluto and the dwarf planet's five moons.
  • New Horizons 'Speeds Up' on Final Approach to Pluto
    With just two weeks to go before its historic July 14 flight past Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft tapped the accelerator late last night and tweaked its path toward the Pluto system.
  • Build the Buzz!
    New Horizons is now deep in the encounter, and already seeing just how interesting Pluto and Charon promise to be. Mission PI Alan Stern writes that there's only one Pluto flyby planned in all of history, and it's happening next month!
  • Increasing Variety on Pluto's Close Approach Hemisphere, and a 'Dark Pole' on Charon
    New Horizons doesn't pass Pluto until July 14 - but the mission team is making discoveries as the piano-sized probe bears down on the Pluto system.
  • Exactly 37 Years after Its Discovery, Pluto's Moon Charon Is Being Revealed
    Discovered in 1978, Pluto's moon Charon is about to be revealed in detail by New Horizons. As the spacecraft draws closer by nearly a million miles a day, every observation brings new knowledge about this mysterious moon.
  • Pluto and Charon, Now in Color
    The first color movies from New Horizons show Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, and the complex orbital dance of the two bodies.
  • One Month from Pluto: New Horizons on Track, All Clear, and Ready for Action
    Now within one month of the Pluto flyby, the New Horizons team has executed a course correction, completed updated analyses of hazards near Pluto, and is picking up the pace of science-data collection.
  • Different Faces of Pluto Emerging in New Images from New Horizons
    The surface of Pluto is becoming better resolved as New Horizons spacecraft speeds closer to its July flight through the Pluto system.
  • Hubble Finds Pluto's Moons Tumbling in Absolute Chaos
    Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.
  • So Far, All Clear: New Horizons Team Completes First Search for Pluto System Hazards
    The New Horizons team has analyzed the first set of hazard-search images of the Pluto system taken by the approaching spacecraft – and so far, all looks clear for the spacecraft's safe passage.
  • New Horizons Sees More Detail as It Draws Closer to Pluto
    What a difference 20 million miles makes! Images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft are growing in scale as the spacecraft approaches its mysterious target.
  • New Horizons Spots Pluto's Faintest Known Moons
    It's a complete Pluto family photo – or at least a photo of the family members we've already met. Having photographed small, faint moons Kerberos and Styx, New Horizons is now within sight of all the known members of the Pluto system.
  • A Schoolgirl Names Pluto, 85 Years Ago Today
    In 1930, 11-year-old Venetia Burney learned of the newly discovered ninth planet from her grandfather and wondered, "Why not call it Pluto?" The suggestion caught on, and became solar system history.
  • New Horizons Detects Surface Features, Possible Polar Cap on Pluto
    For the first time, images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft are revealing bright and dark regions on the surface of faraway Pluto - the primary target of the New Horizons close flyby in mid-July.
  • New Horizons' Student Instrument Turning Deep Space Dust to Data about Pluto's Environment
    Know how college students barely sleep? The science instrument on New Horizons built by University of Colorado students - the aptly named Student Dust Counter (or SDC) - shares that habit.
  • NASA's New Horizons Nears Historic Encounter with Pluto
    New Horizons' flight through the Pluto system in July will complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system, while opening the door to a new zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt.
  • Capstone: 2015
    On July 14, New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto and its system of moons. In a cosmic coincidence, that will occur 50 years to the day after the historic first flyby of Mars, on July 14, 1965!
  • NASA Hosts Briefings on Historic Mission to Pluto
    NASA TV will air media briefings at 1 p.m. EDT and 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, to discuss plans and related upcoming activities about the agency's historic New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto.
  • Inside 100 Days to the Historic First Exploration of Pluto, New Horizons Set to Deliver
    Speeding toward a historic flyby on July 14, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has moved into the second phase of its approach to Pluto and its moons.
  • NASA Extends Campaign for Public to Name Features on Pluto
    The public has until Friday, April 24, to help name new features on Pluto and its orbiting satellites as they are discovered by NASA's New Horizons mission.
  • Google+ Hangout on Pluto Studies
    The New Horizons team talks the history and future of Pluto science in Google Hangout at 1 p.m. (EDT) on April 3.
  • New Horizons Sampling 'Space Weather' on Approach to Pluto
    As New Horizons approaches the Pluto system, space plasma instruments have already been taking measurements and assessing the space weather environment in the Kuiper Belt near Pluto.
  • A Record Day for New Horizons
    After more than nine years in space, on a voyage taking it farther to its primary destination than any mission before it, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is closer to Pluto than the Earth is to the Sun.
  • With Trajectory Correction, NASA's New Horizons Homes in on Pluto
    A 93-second thruster burst today slightly adjusted the New Horizons spacecraft's trajectory toward Pluto.
  • Why Pluto?
    New Horizons Co-Investigator William McKinnon writes that the revelation of the Kuiper Belt is one of the most significant advances in planetary science in the last 30 years. We're going to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt to unlock the secrets of the solar system's third zone.
  • Pluto Science, on the Surface
    How will New Horizons study Pluto's geology and surface composition? Principal Investigator Alan Stern lays out the plans to shed light on this deep space mystery.
  • How Big Is Pluto's Atmosphere?
    Just how big is Pluto's atmosphere? Science Team Co-Investigator Michael Summers says New Horizons will answer that question (and many others) during the Pluto system encounter in July.
  • 85 Years after Pluto's Discovery, New Horizons Spots Small Moons Orbiting Pluto
    Exactly 85 years after Clyde Tombaugh's historic discovery of Pluto, the NASA spacecraft set to encounter the icy planet this summer is providing its first views of the small moons orbiting Pluto.
  • The View from New Horizons: A Full Day on Pluto-Charon
    In new movies crafted from New Horizons images, watch Charon circle Pluto over a full day.
  • Happy Birthday Clyde Tombaugh: New Horizons Returns New Images of Pluto
    Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh could only dream of a spacecraft flying past the small planet he spotted on the edges of the solar system in 1930. Yet the newest views from New Horizons – released today, on the late American astronomer's birthday – hint at just how close that dream is to coming true.
  • Google+ Hangout on Solar System Science Education, Jan. 28
    Educators: Join PBS LearningMedia and the New Horizons mission for a Google+ Hangout at 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 28, for a look at what lies ahead for solar system science, with a focus on helping your curriculum stay up-to-date in this exciting time for space exploration. Presenters include Jeff Moore, New Horizons Science Team co-investigator from NASA Ames Research Center.
  • Something Special in the Air
    The earliest stages of our Pluto encounter have begun, and New Horizons remains healthy and on course. Looking ahead, Principal Investigator Alan Stern previews the atmospheric science New Horizons will conduct during its flight through the Pluto system.
  • New Horizons Begins First Stages of Pluto Encounter
    The New Horizons spacecraft has begun its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto, entering the first of several approach phases that will culminate with the first close-up flyby of the Pluto system six months from now.
  • It's Pluto Eve!
    New Horizons has been awake from hibernation since early December and is now in the earliest stages of Pluto approach. As 2014 ends and 2015 begins, PI Alan Stern is reminded of something science team member Rick Binzel said a while back: "It's Pluto Eve!"
  • Great Expectations
    For scientist Dennis Reuter, the likelihood of finding something new in data from New Horizons' Ralph imaging instrument – which will allow us to "see" things as if we ourselves were at Pluto – is beyond exciting.
  • On the Eve of Encounter: New Horizons at AGU
    After nine years and three billion miles in flight, it's "mission on" for New Horizons. In a webcast workshop, team members previewed the upcoming Pluto encounter at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting on Dec. 18.
  • Catch New Horizons Team on Google+
    Principal Investigator Alan Stern joins six science team post-docs to talk New Horizons in Google+ Hangout today at 4 pm EST.
  • On Pluto's Doorstep, NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens for Encounter
    After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles - the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target - NASA's New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation today for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.
  • Planetary Society Webcast of New Horizons Wake-Up
    New Horizons team members scheduled to join Planetary Society host Mat Kaplan on a YouTube webcast covering the spacecraft's final exit from hibernation on Dec. 6, from 9-10 p.m. EST.
  • Waking Up on Pluto's Doorstep
    After almost nine years of flight, New Horizons is literally on Pluto's doorstep. PI Alan Stern anticipates the spacecraft's wake-up this week from its final hibernation period - and offers a chance to vote for the official New Horizons wake-up graphic!
  • Staring at the Sun
    We've all been told not to stare at the Sun. But scientist Joel Parker writes that we not only allow New Horizons' Alice instrument to stare directly at the Sun - we encourage it!
  • Pluto's Exotic Chemistry
    Pluto is a Kuiper Belt chemistry lab - a world with a surface dominated by solid nitrogen, carbon compounds, and radiation-chemical products unlike any planet yet visited - and scientist Reggie Hudson can't wait to study it.
  • New Horizons Set to Wake Up for Pluto Encounter
    The New Horizons spacecraft comes out of hibernation for the last time on Dec. 6. Between now and then, while the Pluto-bound probe enjoys three more weeks of electronic slumber, work on Earth is well under way to prepare the spacecraft for a six-month encounter with the dwarf planet that begins in January.
  • Peering into Planetary Atmospheres
    New Horizons will use its radio equipment to reveal previously unknown properties of Pluto's atmosphere, writes Co-Investigator David Hinson, enriching our understanding of planetary atmospheres across the solar system.
  • KBO Hunting: How Hubble Rescued New Horizons
    In his latest PI Perspective blog entry, Alan Stern recounts the hunt for a potential, post-Pluto Kuiper Belt flyby target for New Horizons - and tells how the Hubble Space Telescope came through for a dedicated search team.
  • Eyes on Pluto's Ices
    Deputy Project Scientist Cathy Olkin has an interest in Pluto's surface ices - and says that by looking at the different infrared wavelengths of reflected sunlight from Pluto, you can learn about the amounts and distribution of those ices.
  • It's Just a Phase: Changes on Pluto's Surface
    Like water freezing into ice or heating into steam, the materials on Pluto's surface -; nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide - undergo phase changes. New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy explains the processes behind this activity and its effects on the small planet.
  • Today: Ask New Horizons Anything
    Join New Horizons PI Alan Stern and other science team members for a reddit "Ask Me Anything" session on Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. EDT.
  • How Big Is Pluto?
    We know the general range of Pluto's diameter, but one of the easiest measurements New Horizons will make is to tell us, finally, Pluto's real size. Mission Co-I Marc Buie explains how scientists have gauged Pluto's size so far and why they care about how big the small planet really is.
  • Rings and Other Solar System Surprises
    Mark Showalter is an expert in planetary rings and small moons, but the discovery of rings around a large asteroid last year reminded him that the solar system still holds plenty of surprises.
  • One Last Slumber
    New Horizons has entered hibernation for the last time, and the final, short leg of its cruise to Pluto is actually upon us. PI Alan Stern writes about the busy summer leading up to the spacecraft's latest slumber, and the excitement of preparing to explore the Pluto system.
  • Hello Hydra!
    New Horizons made its first detection of Pluto's small, faint, outermost known moon, Hydra. The images were taken to practice the methods the mission team will use to search for additional moons and potentially hazardous debris near Pluto next year.
  • Awaiting New Results on Pluto's Atmosphere
    What is Pluto's atmosphere really like? Co-Investigator Randy Gladstone has been wondering about that for decades - and is excited to know that we'll learn a whole lot more after New Horizons visits Pluto in summer 2015.
  • Pluto's Complex Chemistry
    What is Pluto made of? With telescopes we have discovered that Pluto's surface is covered by several kinds of ice, and science team co-investigator Dale Cruikshank writes that New Horizons will shed even more light on Pluto's complex chemistry.
  • New Horizons Commanded into Last Pre-Pluto Slumber
    Following a successful summer systems checkout, New Horizons has entered hibernation – its final hibernation period on the flight to Pluto.
  • What Will It Mean to See Pluto?
    We're less than a year from seeing Pluto up close for the first time. New Horizons Science Team Co-Investigator Don Jennings asks: Will our feelings toward Pluto change when we finally see what it really looks like?
  • New Horizons Crosses Neptune Orbit En Route to Historic Pluto Encounter
    The New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune - its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015. The milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on Aug. 25, 1989.
  • New Horizons Event on Aug. 25 Marks Neptune Orbit Crossing, Connections to Voyager
    New Horizons passes the orbit of Neptune on Aug. 25 - on the exact 25th anniversary of the Voyager 2 spacecraft's encounter with Neptune in 1989. NASA will hold a two-part science event for the public to learn about the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the spacecraft's connection to Voyager's historic visit to Neptune.
  • My Family Planet
    Some people have a favorite planet, but how many have a "family" planet? New Horizons Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Young writes about the special place Pluto holds in her family.
  • A Pluto Preview? Scientists Create New Triton Map
    "Restored" Voyager footage has been used to construct the best global color map of Neptune's moon Triton. Production of the map was inspired by anticipation of New Horizons' Pluto encounter; Pluto is unlikely to be a copy of Triton, but some of the same types of features may be present.
  • From Pinpoint of Light to a Geologic World
    New Horizons Science Team Co-investigator Bonnie Buratti has been studying Pluto as a pinpoint of light for more than 25 years. And while you can learn a lot by looking at Pluto through a telescope, she writes, it will be so exciting to see this little white dot turn into a geologic world.
  • Where Is Pluto?
    New Horizons has traveled (nearly) nine long years to get across the solar system to check out Pluto - and Science Team member Marc Buie writes that it's actually harder than you might think to make sure that Pluto will be there to greet us at the end of our journey.
  • New Horizons Spies Charon Orbiting Pluto
    Like explorers of old peering through a shipboard telescope for a faint glimpse of their destination, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is taking a distant look at the Pluto system - in preparation for its historic encounter with the planet and its moons next summer.
  • Discoveries and Mysteries
    Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens to spot craters on the moon, the moons of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn. Science Team member Richard Binzel writes that those findings transformed our view of the solar system - and New Horizons could be similarly transformational.
  • Putting It All Together
    Project Scientist Hal Weaver says he's looking forward to the remarkable discoveries New Horizons will provide on the properties of Pluto and its moons - but the scientific implications of these results will go well beyond what we'll learn specifically about the Pluto system.
  • New Horizons Marks a 'Year Out' with a Successful Course Correction
    New Horizons performed a slight course correction on July 14, a short maneuver designed to correct the spacecraft's arrival time at Pluto a year from now.
  • Annual Checkout Makes for Great Pluto Preparation
    In the first of a new series of blogs from the New Horizons science team, Deputy Project Scientist Kim Ennico writes how the annual checkout may not be the Pluto flyby, but this summer's data will play a big role in next year's science returns.
  • Hubble Proceeds with Full Search for Kuiper Belt Targets
    The Hubble Space Telescope has been given the go-ahead to conduct an intensive search for a suitable Kuiper Belt object that New Horizons could visit after the probe streaks though the Pluto system in July 2015.
  • What If Voyager Had Explored Pluto?
    If Voyager 1 had been sent to Pluto, it would have arrived in the spring of 1986. With New Horizons headed toward a 2015 rendezvous with Pluto, mission PI Alan Stern wonders what we might have found almost 30 years ago had Voyager 1 - rather than New Horizons - been first to the distant world.
  • Final 'Pre-Pluto' Annual Checkout Begins
    New Horizons' annual checkout - its eighth since launch and last before next year's rendezvous with Pluto - kicks off with some onboard subsystem housekeeping and navigation-tracking tasks. But the pace picks up soon enough with a slate of operations that carries through summer.
  • NASA Hubble to Search Beyond Pluto for a New Horizons Mission Target
    The Hubble Space Telescope Time Allocation Committee has recommended using Hubble to search for an object New Horizons could visit after its flyby of Pluto in 2015.
  • Childhood's End
    New Horizons is about to emerge from its next-to-last hibernation period, and the mission team is increasingly turning its attention to the encounter that begins early next year. New Horizons PI Alan Stern writes about the full slate of activities planned over the next few months.
  • Assessing Pluto from Afar
    The New Horizons team has kicked off its Earth-based Observation Campaign, an opportunity for astronomers around the globe to observe Pluto while New Horizons approaches and passes it.
  • Educator Workshop Set for April 26
    NASA's Discovery workshops delve into the stories behind some amazing missions - offering educators a chance to learn how scientists, engineers and mission operators collaborate to meet mission goals. New Horizons is among the missions featured in the next workshop, "The Scale of Discovery," on April 26.
  • Thanks America, New Horizons Ahead
    New Horizons sailed past another deep-space milepost today when the spacecraft moved to within four astronomical units of its prime target, Pluto.
  • New Horizons Reaches the Final 4 (AU)
    New Horizons sailed past another deep-space milepost today when the spacecraft moved to within four astronomical units of its prime target, Pluto.
  • A Busy Year Begins for New Horizons
    With Pluto encounter operations now just a year away, the New Horizons team has brought the spacecraft out of hibernation for the first of several activities planned for 2014.
  • On Video: How Do We Get to Pluto? Practice, Practice, Practice
    The Pluto flyby will be like the Super Bowl of space science - and you don't walk into the big game without practice. We close out the year with a video look at the biggest New Horizons activity of 2013: the full-up dress rehearsal for the Pluto encounter.
  • A Model Spacecraft
    With the real spacecraft closing in on Pluto, a drive is under way to make a smaller version of New Horizons available closer to home.
  • On the Path to Pluto, 5 AU and Closing
    Pluto isn't quite the next exit on New Horizons' voyage through the outer solar system, but the destination is definitely getting closer. Today the NASA spacecraft speeds to within five astronomical units (AU) of Pluto - which is less than five times the distance between the Earth and the sun.
  • The Sounds of New Horizons
    If New Horizons could talk, our Pluto-bound spacecraft would sound something like this "tune" members of the mission communications team created from actual ranging signals that New Horizons traded with NASA Deep Space Network receiving stations.
  • Late in Cruise, and a Binary Ahoy
    New Horizons has just completed a summer of intensive activities and entered hibernation on Aug. 20. The routine parts of the activities included thorough checkouts of all our backup systems (result: they work fine!) and of all our scientific instruments (they work fine too!). We also updated our onboard fault protection (a.k.a. "autonomy") software, collected interplanetary cruise science data, and tracked the spacecraft for hundreds of hours to improve our trajectory knowledge. Added to this mix of routine summer wake-up activities for New Horizons were two major activities that had never been performed before.
  • Pluto Science Conference Exceeds Expectations
    Compressing eight decades of discoveries into five days, scientists met July 22-26 to talk everything Pluto - what we already know, what we'd like to know, and what data we expect New Horizons spacecraft to deliver in 2015.
  • Charon Revealed!
    New Horizons' highest-resolution telescopic camera has spotted Pluto's moon Charon for the first time - beginning, in a sense, the mission's long-range study of the Pluto system.
  • Celebrating 35 Years of Charon
    New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern looks back on the summer 1978 discovery of Charon - and looks ahead to the mission's flight past Pluto's largest and "first" moon.
  • Kerberos and Styx: Welcome to the Pluto System!
    Pluto's two smallest and "newest" moons now have their official names. Kerberos and Styx join previously known moons Charon, Nix and Hydra.
  • New Horizons Team Sticking to Original Flight Plan at Pluto
    Unless significant new hazards are found, expect NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to stay on its original course past Pluto and its moons, after mission managers concluded that the danger posed by dust and debris in the Pluto system is less than they once feared.
  • Encounter Planning Accelerates
    The New Horizons team has spent much of past year looking hard at the potential impact hazards its spacecraft could face during the 2015 flight through the Pluto system; mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern offers an update on plans to protect New Horizons, as well as a preview of this summer's encounter rehearsal activities.
  • Pluto Moons: The Votes Are In
    The public has spoken, choosing candidate names for Pluto's newest and smallest moons. "Vulcan" and "Cerberus" topped the list after more than 450,000 total votes were cast.
  • Help Name Pluto's New Moons
    The discoverers of "P4" and "P5" are inviting the public to help select permanent names for Pluto's newest and smallest moons. Like Pluto's three other moons - Charon, Nix and Hydra - they need to be assigned names derived from Greek or Roman mythology. Voting ends Feb. 25.
  • The Seven-Year Itch
    After seven years in flight -- longer than many science missions operate - the New Horizons team can feel that the Pluto encounter is almost around the corner. Mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern writes that there's an increased pace of activity, a sense of anticipation, and a palpable thirst for the images and other data the team will soon have.
  • New Horizons Gets a New Year's Workout
    Like many of us, New Horizons is starting the new year with a workout regimen. After six months of cruising quietly through the outer solar system, NASA's Pluto-bound spacecraft has entered three weeks of activity that include system checks, a new flight software upload and science data downloads.
  • Halfway Between Uranus and Neptune, New Horizons Cruises On
    Today the New Horizons spacecraft passed the halfway point between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, zooming past another milepost on its historic trek to the planetary frontier.
  • New Horizons on Planetary Radio
    His mission to Pluto and beyond is just the start. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern is the PI for other missions and instruments in space. The former Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Directorate is a Vice President at the Southwest Research Institute. He tells us that all's well, but New Horizons is preparing for a possibly bumpy visit to Pluto. Alan also extends a special invitation to Planetary Radio listeners as he explains Uwingu, his new company that will raise funds for space science by allowing anyone to propose and vote for new planet names. Bill Nye wonders with the rest of us what Curiosity scientists have found on Mars, while Emily shares a beautiful new landscape captured by the big rover. Bruce Betts extends a couple of invites of his own on What's Up: A new round of Shoemaker Near Earth Object grants, and your chance to entertain Bruce and Mat with your guess of what Curiosity has found.
  • At Pluto, Moons and Debris May Be Hazardous to New Horizons
    As New Horizons has traveled through space, its science team has become increasingly aware of the possibility that dangerous debris may be orbiting in the Pluto system, putting the spacecraft and its exploration objectives into harm's way.
  • The Kuiper Belt at 20
    Twenty years after astronomers spied the first Kuiper Belt Object (outside of the Pluto system), New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern examines how additional discoveries in the belt have dramatically changed our view of the solar system.
  • Online: New Horizons PI Talks Pluto
    New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern is scheduled to appear on the "Virtually Speaking Science" program tonight with NBCNews.com Science Editor Alan Boyle at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT).
  • All Aboard: Fly New Horizons through the Kuiper Belt!
    A new computer simulation from NASA's New Horizons mission offers a look at the latest objects discovered in the distant Kuiper Belt - from the vantage point of the Pluto-bound spacecraft itself.
  • Gimme Five!
    A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.
  • New Horizons Doing Science in Its Sleep
    New Horizons will start collecting data on interplanetary space during its long hibernation periods on the way to Pluto, gathering new information in a region of space that's rarely visited by spacecraft.
  • It's a Sim: Out in Deep Space, New Horizons Successfully Practices the 2015 Pluto Encounter
    The Pluto system was still about three years and 850 million miles away. But on May 29-30, the New Horizons spacecraft "thought" it was July 14, 2015, and carried out the most intense segment of its Pluto flyby as part of the mission's first onboard encounter simulation.
  • Extending Our Horizons
    New Horizons is healthy and on course for an encounter with Pluto in July 2015. But what's in store for the mission after the historic flight through the Pluto system? Principal Investigator Alan Stern offers a look at how the mission team plans to explore other objects in the ancient Kuiper Belt.
  • New Horizons Stamp Drive Completes a 10K - and Keeps Going!
    As fast as New Horizons is heading toward Pluto, the drive to honor this historic exploration of the ninth planet is speeding toward its finish. Less than a week remains to put your name on the petition supporting an effort for the U.S. Postal Service to commemorate Pluto and New Horizons on a postage stamp.
  • 'A Vision of Discovery' Educator Workshop: March 10
    Learn more about the New Horizons mission as well as others in NASA's Discovery and New Frontiers programs. The "Vision of Discovery" workshop, set for March 10, is being held at four locations across the country and via webinar. Deadline to register March 5th.
  • New Horizons on Approach: 22 AU Down, Just 10 to Go
    Few spacecraft travel 10 astronomical units during their entire mission. But with New Horizons already logging more than twice that distance on its way to Pluto, coming to within 10 AU of its main target is akin to entering the home stretch.
  • New Horizons Aims to Put Its Stamp on History
    New Horizons' flight to explore the Pluto system in July 2015 will be a historic accomplishment for the U.S. space program, for planetary science, and indeed for all humankind.
  • New Horizons Works through Winter Wakeup
    New Horizons might be more than two billion miles from home, but the spacecraft has spent most of the new year at the fingertips of its operators.
  • Late Cruise!
    New Horizons remains healthy and on course, now more than 23 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is. We will be 32.9 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is when we reach Pluto in three years, in the summer of 2015, so we're now about 70 percent of the way there.
  • New Horizons Team Remembers Patsy Tombaugh
    The New Horizons team mourns Patsy Tombaugh - widow of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh - who died Jan. 12 in Las Cruces, N.M.
  • Evidence of Complex Molecules Found on Pluto
    Even from afar, Pluto gets more and more interesting. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers have discovered a strong ultraviolet-wavelength absorber on Pluto's surface - providing new evidence of complex hydrocarbon and /or nitrile molecules lying on the surface.
  • New Horizons Becomes Closest Spacecraft to Approach Pluto
    After nearly six years of high-speed flight, New Horizons reached a special milestone today on its way to reconnoiter the Pluto system: coming closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft.
  • Is the Pluto System Dangerous?
    With the discovery of yet another moon around Pluto, mission PI Alan Stern takes on a question the team is hearing more often: "Is the Pluto system dangerous to New Horizons?"
  • On the Path to Pluto: New Horizons App Now Available
    The team behind NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt has launched a free app that takes iPhone and iPad users along on this historic voyage to the planetary frontier.
  • Visiting Four Moons, in Just Four Years, for All Mankind
    New Horizons remains healthy and on course, now approximately 21 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is - well on its way, between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune.
  • Remembering New Horizons Co-Investigator Dr. David Charles Slater, August 12, 1957 - May 30, 2011
    I have written here more than once that on long space missions like New Horizons, mission teams form family-like bonds. Well, on May 30, the New Horizons family lost one of our own, co-investigator and friend, Dr. Dave Slater, of the Southwest Research Institute.
  • View from the Summit: Hunting for KBOs at the Top of the World
    I would like to tell you a bit about our recent Kuiper Belt object search observing run on the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, one of a dozen or so KBO search runs we're doing this year. But first, I want to thank everyone who's helping out with the crucial task of sorting through our terabytes of data for those elusive KBOs, using the Ice Hunters site! It's amazing the effort people are putting into this, and I hope we can all reap the rewards sometime in the coming decade, when we get mankind's first look at one of the typical members of the Kuiper Belt.
  • Fourth Moon Adds to Pluto's Appeal
    On the anniversary of the first landing of men on our moon, New Horizons mission team scientists have announced the discovery of a fourth moon around Pluto - adding to the scientific treasure trove that awaits NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons when it arrives in 2015.
  • New Horizons Scientists Tracking Pluto
    New Horizons scientists Leslie Young and Cathy Olkin are among astronomers making "occultation" measurements of the Pluto system this week. By watching Pluto and its moons cross between Earth and a star, the team can measure the atmosphere on Pluto, and the sizes and positions of its airless moons. Follow their expedition on this National Geographic blog.
  • New Horizons Educator Fellows Trained to Bring the Solar System to Your Community
    The New Horizons Educator Fellows took part in a training workshop from June 21-23, 2011, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland.
  • Citizen Scientists: Discover a New Horizons Flyby Target!
    The world is invited to help discover a potential new, icy follow-on Kuiper Belt destination for NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, using the IceHunters.org website.
  • Wanted: Kuiper Belt Targets
    The New Horizons team, working with astronomers using some of the largest telescopes on Earth, will begin searching this month for distant Kuiper Belt objects that the New Horizons spacecraft hopes to reconnoiter after completing its observations of the Pluto system in mid-2015.
  • Pinch Me!
    As we continue that journey through 2011, there's much more going on than just mileage markers and planet crossings. Our next big milestone is a nearly two-month-long annual wakeup of our spacecraft from hibernation that begins May 9 and concludes July 1.
  • Forensic Sleuthing Ties Ring Ripples to Impacts
    Like forensic scientists examining fingerprints at a cosmic crime scene, scientists working with data from NASA's New Horizons, Cassini and Galileo missions have traced telltale ripples in the rings of Saturn and Jupiter back to collisions with cometary fragments dating back more than 10 years ago.
  • Later, Uranus: New Horizons Passes Another Planetary Milestone
    New Horizons is ready to put another planet - or at least the planet's orbit - in its rearview mirror. The Pluto-bound spacecraft crosses the path of Uranus around 6 p.m. EDT on March 18, more than 1.8 billion miles from Earth.
  • Launch Plus Five Years: A Ways Traveled, a Ways to Go
  • Ten Years On
    Well, 10 years ago, on Dec. 19, 2000, NASA announced that it would conduct a competition for a PI-led mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. At the time, I'd been involved in leading NASA's science working group for just such a mission, and I had led a successful proposal to build a complete suite of science instruments for the mission. So, almost immediately upon NASA's announcement, colleagues asked me to lead a Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission proposal.
  • A Toast to New Horizons
    New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern celebrates the mission's latest milestones with the family of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh.
  • Where Is the New Horizons Centaur Stage?
    When New Horizons launched nearly five years ago, its first Atlas V stage and solid rocket boosters fell back to Earth within minutes of launch. The third stage solid-rocket motor followed the spacecraft out of Earth orbit. But what became of the Centaur second stage New Horizons left behind?
  • Reaching the Mid-Mission Milestone on the Way to Pluto!
    On October 17, New Horizons passed the halfway mark in the number of days from launch to Pluto encounter - the last of the mission's halfway points on the way to Pluto. In his latest Web posting, Principal Investigator Alan Stern takes a look at this milestone and a few other significant mission events.
  • Student Dust Counter instrument breaks distance record
    The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter on New Horizons now holds the record for the most distant- functioning space dust detector.
  • Picture-Perfect Pluto Practice
    Neptune's giant moon Triton is often called Pluto's "twin" - so what better practice target, then, for New Horizons' telescopic camera? The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took aim at Neptune during the latest annual systems checkout.
  • LORRI Looks Back at "Old Friend" Jupiter
    In early 2007 New Horizons flew through the Jupiter system, getting a speed-boost from the giant planet's gravity while snapping stunning, close-up images of Jupiter and its largest moons. Three years later, New Horizons has given us another glimpse of Jupiter, this time from a vantage point more than 16 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, and nearly 1,000 times as far away as when the probe reconnoitered Jupiter.
  • Five Years and Counting Down
    Five years ago, the New Horizons spacecraft was in a thermal-vacuum chamber at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, being tested for our historic voyage to the planetary frontier. Today our intrepid probe is a billion kilometers past Saturn - and exactly five years away from closest Pluto approach on Jul 14, 2015.
  • Course Correction Keeps New Horizons on Path to Pluto
    A short but important course-correction maneuver keeps New Horizons on track to reach the "aim point"for its 2015 encounter with Pluto.
  • Check it Out: System Tests, Science Observations and a Course Correction
    New Horizons' fourth annual checkout is nearing its mid-point, and continues with a workout for the spacecraft systems, cameras and other instruments that will deliver the first data from Pluto and its moons. Preparations for a small but necessary course-correction maneuver are also on track.
  • Ever Farther Across the Ocean of Space to a Distant and Unknown Shore
    Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) writes that all systems are "go" on New Horizons as it speeds along the vast ocean of space, and the mission team prepares for the annual spacecraft checkout.
  • Nix and Hydra: Five Years After Discovery
    Five years after the discovery of Nix and Hydra, scientists are meeting in Baltimore to discuss Pluto's "new" moons as part of the planning for New Horizons' 2015 reconnaissance of the Pluto system. Participants in the Nix-Hydra workshop, May 11-12 at the Space Telescope Science Institute, will focus on the moons in context of Pluto formation, Kuiper Belt Object analog bodies, and the general topic of KBO satellites. Check out the workshop Web site (http://www.stsci.edu/institute/conference/nix-hydra).Watch the live conference stream (https://webcast.stsci.edu/webcast/).(Note: To watch you will need Flash or Windows Media Player.)
  • New Horizons Team Sees 'Opportunity' for Public Engagement
    Unmanned Spaceflight.com gives its first "Opportunity Award" for public engagement to John Spencer and the New Horizons Jupiter Flyby Planning Team, for seeking and using public suggestions for Kodak-moment imaging opportunities during the New Horizons flyby of Jupiter.
  • New Horizons, Pluto Featured on NOVA
    The New Horizons mission has a role in a special NOVA program on the mission's target planet. 'The Pluto Files' airs on PBS tonight, Tuesday, March 2, at 8 p.m. EST.
  • The Approach Begins
    Another milestone passed! New Horizons is halfway between Earth and Pluto. "From here on out, we're on approach to an encounter with the Pluto system," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern).
  • 80 Years of Pluto
    On February 18, 1930, while examining photographic plates of the sky, American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh saw a tiny spot of light moving slowly against the fixed pattern of stars in the constellation Gemini: it was Pluto. Read more about man who found the ninth planet and the events that led to his discovery of a whole new class of planetary object.
  • New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes
    NASA today released the most detailed set of images ever taken of Pluto. The images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show an icy and dark molasses-colored, mottled world that is undergoing seasonal changes in its surface color and brightness. The images are invaluable to planning the details of the New Horizons flyby in 2015.
  • Coming Soon: New Views of Pluto
    NASA will hold a news telecon at 1 p.m. (EST) on Thuday, Feb. 4, to discuss the latest Hubble images of Pluto. These detailed images will help astronomers better interpret more than three decades of Pluto observations from other telescopes.
  • Four Years and Counting
    NASA's New Horizons mission team marks four years of flight today and their Pluto-bound spacecraft is sleeping right through the celebration.
  • New Horizons Crosses a Threshold: Closer to Pluto than Earth
    The new year approaches with New Horizons zooming past another milestone: the NASA spacecraft is now closer to target planet Pluto than its home planet, Earth.
  • Farewell 2009
    New Horizons is now more than 1,400 days into its 9.5-year journey and well past 15 AU (astronomical units) from the Sun. We still have about 2,050 days ahead of us before we reach the Pluto system, but on Dec. 29, we'll reach the first of several midway milestones. As the graph below shows, New Horizons will be closer to Pluto (the red line) than to Earth (the blue curve). This marker puts a nice capstone on 2009, during which we moved another 500 million kilometers closer to our favorite planet, so far against the deep.
  • New Horizons Roused for Long-Distance Checkup
    Call it a burst of activity between naps: the New Horizons team woke its Pluto-bound spacecraft from hibernation this week for some onboard housekeeping.
  • New Horizons Hits Halfway Mark Between Saturn, Uranus Orbits
    New Horizons sails silently today through another milestone on the way to its historic reconnaissance of the Pluto system, reaching the halfway point between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.
  • Science Never Sleeps
    Mission Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) reviews the last spacecraft checkout, and offers a brief look at what's in store for the New Horizons team (and spacecraft) this fall.
  • New Horizons Checks Out, Enters Hibernation
    The New Horizons mission team has closed out a successful summer workout, putting its Pluto-bound spacecraft back into hibernation Aug. 27 after seven weeks of functional tests and system checks.
  • A Summer's Work, Far From Home
    The work is fun, no doubt there; but it never ends on this mission of exploration particularly in the summer, when we conduct our annual spacecraft checkouts.
  • Rise and Shine: New Horizons Wakes for Annual Checkout
    New Horizons is up from the longest nap of its cruise to Pluto, as operators "woke" the spacecraft from hibernation yesterday for its annual series of checkouts and tests.
  • Ever Plan Ahead? How About Six Years Ahead?
    The way the New Horizons team sees it, it's never too early to plan ahead. Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) describes the team's intense work to design every step of the Pluto encounter - even though the spacecraft is more than six years and just over 18 astronomical units from the Pluto system.
  • New Horizons Team Remembers Venetia Phair, the 'Girl Who Named Pluto'
    The New Horizons team is fondly remembering Venetia Burney Phair, the "little girl" who named Pluto in 1930. Mrs. Phair died April 30 at her home in Epsom, England, at age 90. "Venetia's interest and success in naming Pluto as a schoolgirl caught the attention of the world and earned her a place in the history of planetary astronomy that lives on," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern).
  • NASA Mission Madness: Send New Horizons to the Title Game!
    New Horizons has mounted some impressive wins en route to the Final Four of NASA's "Mission Madness" tournament, but its next battle will be its toughest: a face-off against the Super-Pressure Balloon, the top vote-getter in each in the previous four rounds. Help send New Horizons to the NASA championship! Visit the tournament site on April 2-3 and cast your votes for the first mission to Pluto!
  • One-Third Down
    On the mission flight-time calendar, New Horizons is exactly one-third of the way through its journey to Pluto. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) provides a mission update and ponders something for the next big milestone: just where (or when) is the halfway point in this historic voyage?
  • New Horizons Detects Neptune's Moon Triton
    Add another moon to the New Horizons photo gallery: the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager detected Triton, the largest of Neptune's 13 known moons, during last fall's annual spacecraft checkout.
  • Launch Plus Three Years: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
    On the third anniversary of New Horizons' launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., mission team members reflect on liftoff, a busy first three years of flight and the ongoing voyage to Pluto and beyond.
  • Welcome to Mid-Cruise!
    With the third launch anniversary approaching, New Horizons enters the second of three cruise phases on its voyage to Pluto. In his first posting of the new year, mission Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) takes a look at where the New Horizons spacecraft and team have been, what they're up to now, and where they're headed.
  • New Horizons Earns a Holiday
    After an intense annual checkout "more like a deep-space workout" New Horizons is getting some well-deserved rest. Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory eased the spacecraft into electronic hibernation this week, wrapping up nearly four months of tests, data collection and software upgrades.
  • Building New Horizons - Again
    Bringing a Life-Size Pluto Probe Model to Life
  • SETI Radio Telescopes Track New Horizons
    The New Horizons spacecraft has a new "audience" for the electronic signals it beams back to Earth.
  • Nine Mementos Headed to the Ninth Planet
    You might have heard that New Horizons was carrying several commemorative items from Earth on its voyage, but do you know what they are? For the first time, mission Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) covers the complete list of mementos placed around the spacecraft.
  • 1,000 Days on the Road to Pluto - Time Flies and So Does New Horizons!
    Oct. 15 will be the 1,000th day of flight for New Horizons. Mission Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern) looks back on the flurry of activity since the spacecraft's incredible launch in January 2006, and checks in on the progress of Annual Checkout 2, happening now on New Horizons through mid-December.
  • NASA Salutes New Horizons Team
    NASA has honored the New Horizons team with a Group Achievement Award for creating and launching the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Project Manager Glen Fountain also earned a NASA Public Service Medal.
  • 'Brain Transplant' Successful as Checkout Continues
    The first major order of business in New Horizons' second annual checkout was accomplished as planned, as operators uploaded an upgraded version of the software that runs the spacecraft's Command and Data Handling system.
  • Team Checks Out New Horizons
    Rustled out of hibernation, New Horizons is wide awake and undergoing its annual checkout. Follow the "ACO" progress on our Twitter site!
  • Journeying Beyond Saturn
    As avid followers of New Horizons know, our spacecraft has been mostly hibernating since February, and will continue to so do until Sept. 2, when we will wake it to begin its second annual checkout. Many of you will also recall that New Horizons passed the orbit of Saturn in early Jun.
  • New Horizons Team Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Charon's Discovery
    This week the New Horizons mission team celebrates the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto's largest and first moon, Charon, by U.S. Naval Observatory astronomers James Christy and Robert Harrington.
  • New Horizons Ventures Beyond Saturn's Orbit
    New Horizons crossed the orbit of Saturn on Jun 8, passing yet another interplanetary milepost on its voyage to Pluto and the icy environs of the Kuiper Belt.
  • Milestones Ahead: New Horizons Set to Cross Saturn's Orbit: Spacecraft Will Be First to Journey beyond Ringed Planet Since 1981
    Last week, New Horizons woke up from its longest electronic hibernation period to date - 89 days. And over the next 10 days, the New Horizons team will celebrate a trio of milestones on the spacecraft's long journey to explore Pluto in 2015.
  • Storm Winds Blow in Jupiter's Little Red Spot
    Using data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft and two telescopes at Earth, an international team of scientists has found that one of the solar system's largest and newest storms "Jupiter's Little Red Spot" has some of the highest wind speeds ever detected on any planet.
  • Tombaugh's Accomplishments: A True Work of Art
  • Green Beacons for a Golden Bird
    As you read these words, the New Horizons spacecraft remains in a long period of almost continuous hibernation, which began on Feb. 21 and stretches until Sept. 2. During this time the spacecraft will fly from nine to almost 11 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is, covering more than 300 million more kilometers!
  • Memories of Jupiter
    A year ago, New Horizons was flying through the heart of the Jupiter system, gradually picking up speed and systematically gathering spectacular data on the solar system's largest planet and its closest moons. The results of that spectacular flyby have since been featured on thousands of electronic and printed pages, including a special issue of the journal Science in October 2007.
  • New Horizons Crosses 9 AU
    New Horizons passed a planetary milepost today at 5 a.m. EST when it reached a distance of 9 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, about 836.6 million miles, or nine times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. "The spacecraft destined for the ninth planet is now just beyond 9 AU and continuing outbound for the solar system's frontier at more than 60,000 kilometers per hour!" says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan.Stern@swri.org (A. Stern), of NASA Headquarters.
  • A Hi-Def Peek at Pluto
    New Horizons made its first detection of Pluto using the high-resolution mode of its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) during three separate sets of observations in October 2007.
  • Happy Birthday New Horizons! Two Years on the Road to the Ninth Planet
    Just like the parent of a kid growing up from an infant to a toddler, my experience with New Horizons in flight, since our launch two years ago this week, is that the first two years have passed amazingly quickly and yet amazingly slowly, all at the same time. I guess that given some of the spacecraft hiccups of the past several months, one could also analogize that New Horizons has reached the "Terrible Two" stage and is into saying "no" a little more these days than in its first year.
  • 'Ice' Congratulates 'Fire' on a Successful Mercury Flyby
    The New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt exploration team sends hearty congratulations to its colleagues on the MESSENGER mission, who orchestrated an historic flyby of the planet Mercury on Jan. 14.
  • Podcast: The Hibernation Express
    Podcast #5: The Hibernation Express
  • New Horizons Team Talks Jupiter at AGU Meeting
    The New Horizons spacecraft's spectacular flight past Jupiter earlier this year - which gave it a gravitational boost on the way to a 2015 encounter with Pluto - also provided an opportunity to test the instruments on the NASA probe while gathering new scientific data. Members of the New Horizons team will present findings from that encounter during the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting this week in San Francisco.
  • Autumn 2007 - Onward to the Kuiper Belt
    New Horizons has now covered 85% of the distance from the Sun to Saturn's orbit, which it will pass in mid-2008. Of course, Saturn will be nowhere near New Horizons when we pass that milestone, as it is by chance located far around the Sun from the path New Horizons is following to Pluto. But as you can tell, we are really getting to be well into the outer solar system now.
  • The Guest Perspective - Data for the Next Generations
    New Horizons is about to enter hibernation for its long trip to Pluto. It will be deep in slumber, but not forgotten, and we've taken a crucial step to ensure that its precious data will never be forgotten either. All planetary missions undergo a process called "data archiving," which protects the information against the ravages of time.
  • New Horizons Sees Changes in Jupiter System
    The voyage of NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft through the Jupiter system earlier this year provided a bird's-eye view of a dynamic planet that has changed since the last close-up looks by NASA spacecraft.
  • Checking Out New Horizons
    Since I last wrote here, at the start of August, New Horizons has already traveled another 100 million kilometers from the Sun, putting us more than 7.5 Astronomical Units out, roughly halfway between Jupiter and Saturn. By the middle of next year, we'll be beyond Saturn's orbit, where Cassini is. That will make New Horizons the farthest spacecraft on its way to or at its target.
  • Maneuver Puts New Horizons on a Straight Path to Pluto
    Starting at 4:04 p.m. EDT on Sept. 25, New Horizons fired its thrusters for 15 minutes and 37 seconds, using less than a kilogram of fuel to change its velocity by 2.37 meters per second, or just more than 5 miles per hour. Monitored from the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., the maneuver was only the fourth trajectory correction for the spacecraft since launch in January 2006, and the first since it sped through the Jupiter system last February. The spacecraft was nearly 727 million miles (1.16 billion kilometers) from Earth during the maneuver - just about halfway between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.
  • New Horizons to Voyager: Happy 30th Anniversary!
    On the 30th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch, the New Horizons mission salutes its predecessor on the path toward the solar system's planetary frontier - and beyond.Destined for Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, New Horizons is the first mission to an unexplored planet since the Voyagers roared into space in 1977. Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977; Voyager 2 launched 16 days earlier. Together the Voyagers continue toward the edge of the solar system, returning information from distances more than three times farther away than Pluto.
  • Meet the New Horizons Pluto Pals!
    New Horizons wasn't the only voyage launched on January 19, 2006 - this week we welcome the "Pluto Pals" to the New Horizons team, five kids who were born on the same day our spacecraft embarked on its historic journey the outer solar system.
  • Outbound at 7 AU
    Since I last wrote here, in mid-June, New Horizons has continued its speedy journey from Jupiter's orbit (at 5.2 astronomical units) toward Saturn's at 9.5 AU. On average, we travel about a third of an astronomical unit each month, or roughly a million miles per day. So, as August begins, we're nearing the halfway point in the Jupiter-to-Saturn leg of our journey, set to reach 7 AU on Aug. 6. We'll pass Saturn's orbit (but not Saturn, which will be far away from our path) next June.
  • Good Morning, New Horizons!
    Early this morning, New Horizons operators gently awakened the spacecraft from the two-week "nap" that marked the mission's first operational step into hibernation mode.
  • New Horizons Slips into Electronic Slumber
    New Horizons' first operational hibernation phase is off to a successful start! On commands transmitted from the Mission Operations Center at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland, through NASA's Deep Space Network, the spacecraft eased into hibernation mode in the early hours of June 27. Since then, New Horizons has twice broadcast "green" beacon tones back to Earth, indicating all systems are healthy and operating as programmed.
  • Nap Before You Sleep
    Since I last wrote in mid-May, New Horizons has continued its traverse down the magnetotail of Jupiter. That final phase of our Jupiter flyby science will conclude tomorrow, on June 21. At that point, we will be 1.25 Astronomical Units, or about 120 million miles from Jupiter. (For Jupiter aficionados, that's about 2,300 Jupiter radii from the planet). In the past month, our plasma instruments - SWAP and PEPSSI - revealed that the spacecraft had passed in and out of Jupiter's flagging magnetotail a number of times as we exited this enormous, time-variable space plasma structure.
  • Full Set of Jupiter Close-Approach Data Reaches Home
    Like countless others before it, the data packet rode a radio signal more than 500 million miles from the New Horizons spacecraft to Earth, filtering through NASA's largest antennas late last week to mission and science operations center computers in Maryland and Colorado.
  • Podcast: Jupiter Closest Approach
  • Featured Image: Tvashtar in Motion
    Using its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), the New Horizons spacecraft captured the two frames in this "movie" of the 330-kilometer (200-mile) high Tvashtar volcanic eruption plume on Jupiter's moon Io on February 28, 2007, from a range of 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million miles). The two images were taken 50 minutes apart, at 03:50 and 04:40 Universal Time, and because particles in the plume take an estimated 30 minutes to fall back to the surface after being ejected by the central volcano, each image likely shows an entirely different set of particles. The details of the plume structure look quite different in each frame, though the overall brightness and size of the plume remain constant.
  • Continuing Our Jovian Journey
    This will be a short update, but I didn't want you to think we've folded our tent at Jupiter yet. The image illustration at right is amazing, isn't it? If you haven't been to Jupiter yourself, I think now you can say you almost have been!
  • New Horizons Provides New Views of Jupiter
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has provided new data on the Jupiter system ­-- stunning scientists with never-before-seen perspectives of the giant planet's atmosphere, rings, moons and magnetosphere.
  • NASA Science Update to Discuss Data from Jupiter Flyby
    A NASA Science Update at 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 1, will discuss new views of the Jupiter system. The Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft is returning these images as it flies past the solar system's largest planet during the initial stages of a planned six-month encounter. The update, taking place in the NASA Headquarters auditorium in Washington, will air live on NASA Television and be streamed on the Web at http://www.nasa.gov.
  • The Colors of Night
    The New Horizons Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) took this image of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io at 04:30 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, about one hour before New Horizons' closest approach to Jupiter, from a range of 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million miles). Part of the Ralph imaging instrument, MVIC is designed for the very faint solar illumination at Pluto, and is too sensitive to image the brightly lit daysides of Jupiter's moons. Io's dayside is therefore completely overexposed in this image, and appears white and featureless. However, the Jupiter-lit nightside of Io and the giant plume from the Tvashtar volcano are well exposed, and the versions of the image shown here have been processed to bring out each of these features.
  • Capturing Callisto
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) captured these two images of Jupiter's outermost large moon, Callisto, as the spacecraft flew past Jupiter in late February. New Horizons' closest approach distance to Jupiter was 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles), not far outside Callisto's orbit, which has a radius of 1.9 million kilometers (1.2 million miles). However, Callisto happened to be on the opposite side of Jupiter during the spacecraft's pass through the Jupiter system, so these images, taken from 4.7 million kilometers (3.0 million miles) and 4.2 million kilometers (2.6 million miles) away, are the closest of Callisto that New Horizons obtained.
  • Two Moons Meet over Jupiter
    This beautiful image of the crescents of volcanic Io and more sedate Europa was snapped by New Horizons' color Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) at 10:34 UT on March 2, 2007, about two days after New Horizons made its closest approach to Jupiter.
  • Storm Spectra
    These images, taken with the LEISA infrared camera on the New Horizons Ralph instrument, show fine details in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere using light that can only be seen using infrared sensors. These are "false color" pictures made by assigning infrared wavelengths to the colors red, green and blue. LEISA (Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array) takes images across 250 IR wavelengths in the range from 1.25 to 2.5 microns, allowing scientists to obtain an infrared spectrum at every location on Jupiter. A micron is one millionth of a meter.
  • A Burst of Color
    New Horizons captured this unique view of Jupiter's moon Io with its color camera - the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) - at 00:25 UT on March 1, 2007, from a range of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles). The image is centered at Io coordinates 4 degrees south, 162 degrees west, and was taken shortly before the complementary Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photo of Io released on March 13, which had higher resolution but was not in color.
  • Trip Report
    New Horizons tripped up but recovered itself without a nasty spill last week. This event occurred on the afternoon of March 19, precisely 14 months to the day since we launched.
  • An Even Closer Look at the Little Red Spot
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has returned stunning new images of Jupiter's Little Red Spot, obtained as a 2-by-2 mosaic at 0312 UTC on February 27, 2007, from a distance of 3 million kilometers (1.8 million miles). The image scale is 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) per pixel.
  • Alice Views Jupiter and Io
    This graphic illustrates the pointing and shows the data from one of many observations made by the New Horizons Alice ultraviolet spectrometer (UVS) instrument during the Pluto-bound spacecraft's recent encounter with Jupiter. The red lines in the graphic show the scale, orientation, and position of the combined "box and slot" field of view of the Alice UVS during this observation.
  • A Look from LEISA
    On February 24, 2007, the LEISA (pronounced "Leesa") infrared spectral imager in the New Horizons Ralph instrument observed giant Jupiter in 250 narrow spectral channels. At the time the spacecraft was 6 million kilometers (nearly 4 million miles) from Jupiter; at that range, the LEISA imager can resolve structures about 400 kilometers (250 miles) across.
  • A Midnight Plume
    The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons captured another dramatic picture of Jupiter's moon Io and its volcanic plumes, 19 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter on Feb. 28, 2007. LORRI took this 75 millisecond exposure at 0035 Universal Time on March 1, 2007, when Io was 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from the spacecraft.
  • Downlink Initiated
    New Horizons is about 0.15 astronomical units from Jupiter now, and already 5.5 AU from the Sun! Our final imaging and spectroscopy observations of Jupiter system targets wrapped up last week. Henceforth, the only Jupiter system observations New Horizons will make are magnetotail environment measurements using our PEPSSI and SWAP charged-particle spectrometers and, beginning in April, interplanetary dust measurements by Venetia, our Student Dust Counter.
  • Jupiter's Rings
    The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter's ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).
  • The Tip of the Iceberg
    The intensive phase of Jupiter encounter operations is winding down, but it's not yet over. In the first days of this week, we still have Radio Science Experiment (REX) and Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) calibrations using Jupiter system targets, and some imaging to better determine the shapes and photometric phase curves of Jupiter's satellites Elara and Himalia.
  • Tvashtar's Plume
    This dramatic image of Io was taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons at 11:04 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, just about 5 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. The distance to Io was 2.5 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) and the image is centered at 85 degrees west longitude. At this distance, one LORRI pixel subtends 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) on Io.
  • Launch Complete
    The eighth mission to the fifth planet has reached its crescendo - Jupiter, my friends, is in the rear view mirror! Just yesterday we passed closest approach, sealing the deal on our gravity assist and setting us up for our mid-July 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.
  • Pluto-Bound New Horizons Spacecraft Gets a Boost from Jupiter
    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early this morning, using the massive planet's gravity to pick up speed on its 3-billion mile voyage to Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond.
  • Two Moons and a Storm: Europa
    This image of Jupiter's icy moon Europa, the first Europa image returned by New Horizons, was taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera at 07:19 Universal Time on February 27, from a range of 3.1 million kilometers (1.9 million miles).
  • Two Moons and a Storm: Ganymede
    This is New Horizons' best image of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera at 10:01 Universal Time on February 27 from a range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles).
  • Two Moons and a Storm: Little Red Spot
    This is a mosaic of three New Horizons images of Jupiter's Little Red Spot, taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera at 17:41 Universal Time on February 26 from a range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.1 million miles).
  • An Eruption on Io
    The first images returned to Earth by New Horizons during its close encounter with Jupiter feature the Galilean moon Io, snapped with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 0840 UTC on February 26, while the moon was 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) from the spacecraft.
  • Picking up the Pace
    We're in the thick of it at Jupiter now! Since early on Saturday, February 24, New Horizons has been executing its Jupiter close approach sequence, which contains 15 to 20 observations per day. Recall this is almost 10 times more than what we were doing just a week earlier!
  • Campaigning for Jupiter
    We're now inside of a week to Jupiter closest approach! One aspect of our flyby that I have not yet noted is the broad campaign of coordinated Jupiter observations taking place on Earth and in space. As New Horizons approaches Jupiter, telescopes on terra firma, in Earth orbit and even far across the solar system are turning to observe the "big picture" while New Horizons provides the fine details.
  • Speeding to Zeus
    We're a week from Jupiter closest approach. And if you're monitoring the "Where Is New Horizons?" page, you've likely noticed that we're already accelerating because of Jupiter's gravity. Although the effect is relatively small now, it will build dramatically in the coming days, giving us a boost of approximately 9,000 miles per hour (nearly 14,500 kilometers per hours) by the middle of next week. That's half the speed of a space shuttle in Earth orbit - essentially for free!
  • Calm Before Close Approach
    If you look at our "Where Is New Horizons?" page, which displays the spacecraft's trajectory status, you'll see we're right on Jupiter's doorstep. And it's true. Jupiter already appears one-third of a degree across - just a little smaller than the full Moon as seen from Earth - and growing every day.
  • SWAP Observes Solar Wind Interactions at Jupiter
    A little over a year since launch, with its sights firmly on Jupiter, the New Horizons spacecraft is testing its science payload and making observations as it rounds the planet for a gravity-assist that will speed its journey to the edge of the solar system.
  • One Year Down, Eight to Go, on the Road to Pluto
    A year ago this past Friday, on January 19, 2006, New Horizons lifted off on a pillar of smoke and fire and began its journey to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. How quickly that year has passed. New Horizons and our ground team accomplished a great deal in that first year of flight.
  • New Horizons Closes in on Jupiter
    Just a year after it was dispatched on the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on the doorstep of the solar system's largest planet - about to swing past Jupiter and pick up even more speed on its voyage toward the unexplored regions of the planetary frontier.
  • Jupiter Encounter Begins
    The New Horizons Jupiter encounter is under way! The spacecraft began collecting data on the Jovian system this week, starting with black-and-white images of the giant planet and an infrared look at the icy moon Callisto on Jan. 8.
  • New Horizons in 2007
    What a memorable year for New Horizons! After the final few ground preparations and flight approvals, we launched at 1900 GMT (2 p.m. EST) on January 19. I will never forget the sight of the giant, 210-foot-tall "A Train" leaving Florida for the Kuiper Belt, and how filled with pride I was for everyone who worked to see this milestone come to pass.
  • New Horizons Makes First Pluto Sighting
  • A Season for Thanksgiving
  • Making Old Horizons New
  • Jupiter Ahoy!
  • Changing Seasons on the Road Trip to Planet 9
  • Unabashedly Onward to the Ninth Planet
  • LORRI Sees 'First Light'
  • New Horizons Salutes Voyager
  • Pluto-Charon: A True Double Planet
  • Nine Years to the Ninth Planet, and Counting
  • Student Dust Counter Renamed "Venetia," Honoring Girl Who Named Pluto
  • Pluto's Two Small Moons Christened Nix and Hydra
  • New Horizons Tracks an Asteroid
  • A Summer's Crossing Through the Asteroid Belt
  • 'Exploration at Its Greatest'
  • New Horizons in Space: The First 100 Days
  • New Horizons Crosses the Orbit of Mars
  • Payload Gets High Marks on Early Tests
  • Zero G and I Feel Fine
  • A Colorful Discovery about Pluto's Moons
  • New Horizons Adjusts Course Toward Jupiter
  • Boulder and Baltimore
  • Researchers Describe Discovery of Pluto's New Moons
  • Tom's Cruise
  • Happy 100th Birthday, Clyde Tombaugh!
  • Clyde Tombaugh: A Daughter's Perspective
  • Our Aim Is True
  • New Horizons Successfully Performs First Post-Launch Maneuvers
  • New Horizons Setting Course for Jupiter
  • On the Road at Last
  • It Worked!
  • NASA's Pluto Mission Launched Toward New Horizons
  • New Horizons Launch Reset for Jan. 19
  • First Things First
  • We're in Flight Configuration
  • Status Report from Kennedy Space Center
  • It Takes A Team
  • Free Bird
  • Status Report: Inspection Completed
  • Getting Closer
  • NASA Sets Sights on First Pluto Mission
  • New Horizons Meets Its Launch Vehicle
  • NASA Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report
  • Next Month, We Aim to Fly!
  • A Century After Kuiper's Birth, U.S. Prepares to Launch First Probe to the Kuiper Belt
  • Mission Update: Successful Tests
  • New Horizons Launch Preparations Move Ahead
  • Two More Moons, Two More Months, and Ten More Watts
  • Hubble Reveals Possible New Moons Around Pluto
  • My Life with Clyde
  • New Horizons Payload Ready for Flight, Exciting Science Campaign
  • Changes in Latitude
  • APL-Built Pluto Spacecraft Begins Launch Preparations
  • September Comes, Complete With Sister Worlds
  • A Road Trip, from Earth to Pluto
  • Journey Begins for NASA's New Horizons Probe
  • Pluto-Charon- Two for the Price of One
  • 'Motivated' Team Eyes Mission's Next Stage
  • New Horizons Indeed
  • The PI's Perspective
  • NASA Hosts Community Meetings on New Horizons
  • An Inside Look at New Horizons
  • An Inside Look at New Horizons from Principal Investigator Alan Stern
  • SWAP to Determine Where the Sun and Ice Worlds Meet
  • Analyzing Pluto's Atmosphere with Alice
  • Ralph Aims to Put Pluto in Focus
  • Atlas V Chosen to Launch New Horizons
  • 25th Anniversary of Charon's Discovery (from the U.S. Naval Observatory)
  • Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission Moves Ahead (APL News Release)
  • NASA Moves New Horizons into Full Development (SRI News Release)
  • More Moons Over Pluto?
  • New Horizons Adds Student Science Instrument
  • New Horizons Passes Another Development Milestone
  • Science Operations Center Dedicated to Charon's Discoverer
  • New Horizons Team Tuning Its Instruments
  • Student-Led Team Hopes to Fly Equipment Aboard NASA's Pluto Mission
  • SwRI Research Reveals New Kuiper Belt Mystery
  • Status Report: New Horizons Shines in First Major Review
  • New Horizons Mission Making Progress
  • New Horizons Team Plots a Faster Path to Pluto
  • New Horizons names Science Ops Center after Pluto Discoverer Clyde Tombaugh
  • NASA Goddard to Provide Key New Horizons Instrument
  • NASA Taps APL Team for First Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission (APL News Release)
  • SwRI-APL Team to Develop First Pluto Mission (SRI News Release)
  • NASA Selects Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission for Phase B Study
  • Scientists and Engineers Complete NASA-Funded 'Phase A' Study of Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission
  • Aviation Week and Space Technology (PDF)
  • NASA Selects APL's Pluto Mission Proposal for Further Study
  • NASA Selects Two Investigations for Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission Feasibility Studies

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One thought on “#PlutoFlyby: Closest Approach to Pluto on Tuesday July 14 2015 at 7:49 AM EDT (Livestream included)

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