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New Horizons team releases videos and maps to celebrate anniversary of Pluto flyby

Pluto New Horizons' view of Pluto, as seen in a new NASA video released on July 14, 2017, the second anniversary of the probe's epic flyby of the dwarf planet. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Paul Schenk and John Blackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute

To celebrate the second anniversary of New Horizons’ historic Pluto flyby on July 14, 2015, the mission team released new videos depicting fly overs of both Pluto and its large moon Charon and new maps with even greater detail of the planet and its large satellite.

The videos were made using actual spacecraft data and digital elevation models of both Pluto and Charon to simulate fly overs of both worlds from vantage points closer than those actually traversed by the spacecraft.

As a result, viewers are offered new, stunning perspectives of Pluto and Charon depicting unusual features discovered in New Horizons images over the past two years.

To emphasize both worlds’ topography, topographic relief is enhanced two or three times in the videos.  Colors of surface features are also enhanced to highlight a high level of detail.

The two-minute Pluto fly over video begins over highlands southwest of the iconic left side of Pluto’s heart-shaped plain known as Sputnik Planitia and over the darker, cratered region bordering it known as Cthulhu Macula. Visible to the right are blocky mountain ranges inside the plains.

It next continues north over Voyager Terra, a region of rugged highlands, then dips south over an area known as Pioneer Terra that is dotted with deep, wide pits, before ending over the bladed or snakeskin terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the east.

Lasting slightly over one minute, the Charon flyover video begins with a distant view, then comes closer, sweeping over Serenity Chasma, a deep, wide canyon. It then turns north over Dorothy Gale Crater and the dark polar region known as Mordor Macula and subsequently veers south, flying over the plain known as Oz Terra, and ending over the planar region known as Vulcan Planum and Clark Montes, an area of mountains that appear to be surrounded by moats.

Both flyovers depict only the encounter hemispheres observed by New Horizons in high resolution.

The new maps of Pluto and Charon use the highest resolution images captured by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) to present global mosaics of both worlds.

They have a resolution of 985 feet (300 meters) per pixel and include data uncovered by scientists since the encounter.

“The complexity of the Pluto system–from its geology to its satellite system to its atmosphere–has been beyond our wildest imagination,” said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

“Everywhere we turn are new mysteries. These new maps from the landmark exploration of Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission in 2015 will help unravel these mysteries and are for everyone to enjoy.”

Laurel Kornfeld

Laurel Kornfeld

Staff Writer
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.
About Laurel Kornfeld (1100 Articles)
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.