First images as Pluto fly-by officially underway

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby sequence of science observations is officially underway.

The spacecraft was still just under 8 million kilometres from Pluto when it sent back the image (above). It is the most detailed yet returned by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons. 

The view is centered roughly on the area that will be seen close-up during New Horizons’ 14 July closest approach when the images will be about 500 times better resolution than this one.

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.

You can see the latest map of Pluto in our post from yesterday or read more about this historic mission in our Cosmos coverage here.


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