New Horizons is quickly approaching Pluto after nine years of its journey and is sending back increasingly more detailed photos of the icy dwarf planet.
Back in mid-April, the photos beamed back by Horizons threw many into exciting new theories and questions regarding Pluto. Hazy as they were, they set the stage for the upcoming closer shots to be beamed back to Horizon’s home planet.
At this point, New Horizons is approaching Pluto at a speed of 750, 000 miles per day. Still at a distance of 77 million kilometers from the enigmatic planet, Horizons took a series of photos from May 8th to May 12th. They were downlinked during the previous week and are making the rounds in NASA and the whole world.
The new set of imagery is undeniably even more valuable to understanding what has long been asked about Pluto. It may a dwarf planet, but New Horizons captured a complexity that was harder to imagine before.
Vast darker regions are coming before the lenses of the Long-Range-Reconnaissance Imager, or LORRI. LORRI also revealed a variety of geological features that are for now just leaving everyone to guess.
Surface composition seems to vary on Pluto, culminating with earth like icy polar caps. For now, what is thought to be an icy patch is supported by the imagery that shows it to be absorbing more light.
For now, the mid-May set of images is only placing the researchers’ community one small step closer to having full detail on Pluto. Until July 14th an exciting rollercoaster of guesses will be taking everyone around. Even then, New Horizons will only reach Pluto at a distance of approximately 6000 miles.
Take into consideration that compared to the mid-April photos, the mid-May set was taken from 20 million miles closer and features two times the pixels quality of the first set.
In June, when the next images are expected, the resolution will be at least four times the resolution of the current images. And by that time when New Horizon will be the closest to Pluto, the resolution of the photos is expected to increase 5000 times.
Of course, the wide public will feast in the new era of Plutonian discovery come July 14th when New Horizon will be closest to both Pluto and its moons.
Image Source: fromquarkstoquasars.com