The closest shot of Pluto made by New Horizon yet. Image: NASA

Here’s our closest image of Pluto so far, taken just this morning

Racing at a pace of about a million miles per day, the New Horizon craft is getting closer to Pluto and so are the pictures it’s beaming back. Previously, we’ve shown you the first colored pics of Pluto taken by New Horizon, and its moons. Some of you were disappointed when you got to see only a couple of pale pixels, so this latest shot taken just this morning might be more exciting to watch.

The closest shot of Pluto made by New Horizon yet. Image: NASA

The closest shot of Pluto made by New Horizon yet. Image: NASA

This time you can clearly distinguish Pluto and its largest moon Charon. And if you raise the brightness of your display a couple of notches, you’ll be able to distinguish its other two moons, Hydra and Nix. If you’re wondering what’s with the star-trails, here’s an explanation from NASA:

“This image contains one or more objects whose brightness exceeds the detector’s saturation level. This sometimes produces a “tail” of bright and/or dark pixels to the right of the object. You may also notice a faint vertical white stripe passing through the saturated object; this is an artifact called “frame transfer smear” and is associated with the incomplete removal of signal produced when the image is transferred from the optically active region of the detector to the storage region of the detector. If the target is badly saturated, you may also notice a faint, X-shaped feature nearly centered on the object; these are optical diffraction spikes.

Enhanced view of Pluto

Enhanced view of Pluto

This image contains one or more streaks associated with cosmic rays passing through the detector. Nearly every LORRI image has at least one cosmic ray strike, but most are “single pixel” events (i.e., they only appear to be in single pixel and can easily be mistaken for stars). But sometimes a cosmic ray is energetic enough that it leaves a “trail” as it passes through the LORRI detector.”

Just imagine in three short weeks New Horizon will be close enough to make a flyby past Pluto. I can’t even fathom the level of detail we’ll get to see. But that’s another story, and you can be sure ZME Science will report the first pics as they come out.

7 thoughts on “Here’s our closest image of Pluto so far, taken just this morning

  1. Angel Pluto

    I can hardly wait to be seen. I mean I can hardily wait to see Pluto and Charon, those two full fledged planets along with their other chaotic dancing moons. ;) (dual planets that makes 10 plus Eris and Ceres makes 12 – can’t have too many)

  2. Animatronic Mojo

    Very exciting image from LORRI, for sure!

    Can you please site your source confirming that the two dots above left of Pluto-Charon are actually Hydra and Nix (and not cosmic ray strikes)? I’ve not seen this stated elsewhere.

    You might also note that Pluto has two other known moons, “Kerberos” and “Styx.”

  3. Tibi Puiu

    Personal observation based on the orbits. On second thought… you can see all four of Pluto’s tiny moons. You really need to raise the brightness.

    But yes… these could always be cosmic rays or dust on the lens.

  4. Animatronic Mojo

    Could be! I saw a LORRI image from a couple days ago, processed by a third-party, that also seemed to have all five moons in it- but no confirmation from them or NASA/JPL. Hopefully, we’ll know more soon.

    It’s incredible to think how little we do know about the system- that Charon was only discovered in 1978, the four smaller moons were discovered in the last ten years- Kerberos and Styx just in the last four- and, since 1930, we’ve only directly observed just over a third of Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

    New Horizons is Discovery at its finest- I wish we did a lot more of it.

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