New Horizon sends best-ever images of Pluto’s two moons

New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft set to encounter Pluto later this year, has sent back its first views of the small moons orbiting the dwarf planet.

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the spacecraft from 201 million to 186 million kilometres away.

The long-exposure images offer New Horizons’ best view yet of the two small moons first discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, exactly 85 years earlier on 18 February 1930.

“Professor Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto was far ahead its time, heralding the discovery of the Kuiper Belt and a new class of planet,” says Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “The New Horizons team salutes his historic accomplishment.” 

Screen shot 2015 02 19 at 1. 02. 24 pm
How Tombaugh first saw Pluto as a tiny speck in the night sky. The image on the left from 23 January and on the right from 29 January, 1930.
Lowell Observatory

“It’s thrilling to watch the details of the Pluto system emerge as we close the distance to the spacecraft’s July 14 encounter,” says New Horizons science team member John Spencer, also from Southwest Research Institute. “This first good view of Nix and Hydra marks another major milestone, and a perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of Pluto’s discovery.”

Previous coverage of the New Horizons mission here.

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