In case you missed it, for professional and amateur astronomers, the big news this month is NASA’s release of the first up close photographs taken of Pluto.
On Jan. 19, 2006, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft lifted off aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The piano-sized probe passed within 6,200 miles of Pluto, at about 7:49 a.m. EDT yesterday, July 14, 2015. The spacecraft had a relative velocity of 30,800 mph at its approach and came as close as 17,000 miles to Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Not a bad success story for NASA, after nine and a half years of planning.
NASA provided flyby coverage on NASA Television, the agency’s website and its social media accounts as the spacecraft closed in on its closest look at Pluto. The radio signals confirming the survival of the craft and ongoing research beyond Pluto were received by a Deep Space Network antenna in Spain four and a half hours after they were sent out from the spacecraft at the speed of light, 13 hours after the probe made its close-up flyby.
The above (top) photo is a colorized view released yesterday. The below photo is an earlier view of another angle of the orb.
Congratulations to all the crew at NASA and elsewhere that made these images possible.