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Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. For decades, not much detail was known about the erstwhile planet. We assumed it was a frozen, dormant world.
After years of trying to understand Pluto with the Hubble, NASA’s New Horizons mission was launched. The New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto in the summer of 2015, making its closest approach on July 14th, 2015. New Horizons was a game-changer when it comes to our understanding of Pluto and its moons.
New - Horizons - Cameras - High-resolution - Images
New Horizons’ cameras gave us high-resolution images of Pluto that were far more detailed than Hubble images. And those images cover a lot of the surface of Pluto. But New Horizons was travelling quickly, at 50,700 kilometers per hour (31,500 miles per hour). Since Pluto’s length of day is longer than six Earth days, New Horizons was gone before the far side came into close-range view. It never entered orbit around Pluto.
The relative dearth of high-resolution images from Pluto’s far side has frustrated scientists. There are images from New Horizons’ approach to Pluto, they’re just not as high-resolution as the images from the encounter side, since the spacecraft was further away when that side of Pluto was visible.
Study - Pluto - Far - Side - Pluto
A new study called “Pluto’s Far Side” looks at Pluto’s non-encounter side, and tries to create an integrated understanding of the terrain and features there. The study’s authors come from a variety of institutions, including the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the NASA Ames Research Center, and Johns Hopkins University. The first author is Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute.
New Horizons has a suite of instruments on board, including the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC.) Those instruments gave us the high resolution view of Pluto’s encounter side that we’ve all enjoyed. New Horizons was much further away when...
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