Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Sunday Science Blog
NASA just released the 1st clear photo ever taken of Pluto and its largest moon
On Wednesday, the NASA spacecraft, called New Horizons, was 3.7 million miles away from Pluto when it used its LORRI (LOng-Range Reconnaissance Imager) camera to snap the first clear photo of Pluto ever taken. Here it is, with Pluto's largest moon, Charon, on the left.
Pluto 'Totally Different' from Big Moon Charon, New Photos Show
Pluto and Charon: New Horizons’ Dynamic Duo
They’re a fascinating pair: Two icy worlds, spinning around their common center of gravity like a pair of figure skaters clasping hands. Scientists believe they were shaped by a cosmic collision billions of years ago, and yet, in many ways, they seem more like strangers than siblings.
A high-contrast array of bright and dark features covers Pluto’s surface, while on Charon, only a dark polar region interrupts a generally more uniform light gray terrain. The reddish materials that color Pluto are absent on Charon. Pluto has a significant atmosphere; Charon does not.
On Pluto, exotic ices like frozen nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide have been found, while Charon’s surface is made of frozen water and ammonia compounds. The interior of Pluto is mostly rock, while Charon contains equal measures of rock and water ice. “These two objects have been together for billions of years, in the same orbit, but they are totally different,” said Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.