NASA publishes 1st ‘near-true color’ images of Pluto (VIDEO)

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The US National Space Agency has published the first ever images of the remote dwarf planet Pluto and its largest satellite. The picture quality leaves much to be desired, but NASA promises the best is yet to come.

NASA has compiled a
number of photographs from its New Horizons mission on the
approach to the icy dwarf planet. The series pictures were taken
over the course of five days in three colors: blue, red and
near-infrared. They were then put together to make two looped
movies, showing Pluto and its largest satellite, Charon.

Pluto is a dwarf planet, only about one-sixth of Earth’s size,
which is why it was excluded from the list of Solar System’s
“proper” planets in 2006, when the definition of “planet” was
reviewed. It does orbit the sun, though, and is one of the
largest bodies in the Kuiper belt – a ring of space debris left
over from the Solar System’s formation, beyond the orbit of

It has five known moons, the largest of which, Charon, is
sometimes dubbed Pluto’s “twin planet”: the two appear to orbit
each other around a common center of gravity. One of the videos
NASA released shows that rotation, with the center of gravity
marked with an X. The center is much closer to Pluto due to the
planet’s larger mass compared to Charon.

“It’s exciting to see Pluto and Charon in motion and in
the New Horizons blog quotes Principal Investigator Alan
Stern. “Even at this low resolution, we can see that Pluto
and Charon have different colors—Pluto is beige-orange, while
Charon is grey. Exactly why they are so different is the subject
of debate.”

The resolution will get better, NASA specialists promise, as the
New Horizons spacecraft approaches Pluto. It is set to come as
close as 12,500 kilometers to the surface on July 14 this year.

“Color observations are going to get much, much better,
eventually resolving the surfaces of Charon and Pluto at scales
of just kilometers,”
the project’s blog quotes deputy
project scientist Cathy Olkin. “This will help us unravel the
nature of their surfaces and the way volatiles transport around
their surfaces. I can’t wait; it’s just a few weeks away!”

New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto in history. It is
managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics

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