Pluto in Living Color

This shot was released this morning July 14th 2015 and shows Pluto in full color. I have processed the shot a bit to enhance the contrast and improve saturation for purposes of making the detail stand out. I have to say that the reddish hue of Pluto is entirely unexpected, and the detail level has finally reached a point of quality that is simply amazing.

3.6 Billion with a big B miles away and we are able to finally see what this planet is all about. My congratulations go out to Dr. Stern and the entire team at NASA who have done a hell of a job of getting that spacecraft out to Pluto to take this shot.

Now we all hold our breath for the next 11 hours until the craft signals the completion of the flyby!

Pluto July 14th Download - Shot taken at 4pm July 13th
Pluto July 14th Download – Shot taken at 4pm July 13th

Hints of a Rugged Surface on Pluto Emerge

The latest photo from New Horizons are hinting at potentially rugged surface features and mysterious dark plains . This first photo is from the July 10th image release where surface features are beginning to come into view as the space craft draws closer to the Planet. In the second image I applied several Photoshop processing steps to emphasize the light and dark areas with the hope that more of the surface variations would contrast more deeply.

Nasa Pluto Image from July 10th
Nasa Pluto Image from July 10th
Over Processed Pluto Image
Photoshop processing to enhance contrast surface features

As you can see in the second shot the surface features take on a more dramatic separation between the light and dark areas of the original photo. The important aspect of this processing to keep in mind is that we started with a blurred shot, and with the added processing we likely enhance features that do not exist.

It is a lot of fun to take these images and run them through the filters just to see what might be coming in the days ahead.

New Horizons – Latest Photo of Pluto

7-8-15_pluto_color_new_nasa-jhuapl-swriThis image of Pluto from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was received on July 8, and has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument.
Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI

After last weekends heart stopping moment when the space craft shut down and went into standby mode, the quick return to science operations provided this amazing image of Pluto this morning. The craft suffered a shutdown on Saturday due to an overly intense computation process related to command and control request.

This operation forced a shutdown that was quickly assessed and corrected by the mission team. Return to full science operations was resumed on Monday and over the next several days the team will be receiving and hopefully publishing more amazing results.

On Saturday the following .gif movie of images taken from the craft between June 29th and July 1st hints at what is sure to be a fascinating flyby of the planet. The movie takes a few minutes to download, but is well worth the wait!

pluto movie

New Horizons Pluto Images Improve

Pluto is shown in the latest series of LORRI photos, taken May 8-12, 2015, compared to LORRI images taken one month earlier. In the month between these image sets, New Horizons’ distance to Pluto decreased from 68 million miles to 47 million miles.nh-apr12-may8-2015Between April and May, Pluto appears to get larger as the spacecraft gets closer, with Pluto’s apparent size increasing by approximately 50 percent. Pluto rotates around its axis every 6.4 Earth days, and these images show the variations in Pluto’s surface features during its rotation.

nh-apr15-may10-2015A technique called image deconvolution sharpens the raw, unprocessed pictures beamed back to Earth. In the April images, New Horizons scientists determined that Pluto has broad surface markings – some bright, some dark – including a bright area at one pole that may be a polar cap. The newer imagery released here shows finer details.

“As New Horizons closes in on Pluto, it’s transforming from a point of light to a planetary object of intense interest,” said NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Jim Green. “We’re in for an exciting ride for the next seven weeks.”

“These new images show us that Pluto’s differing faces are each distinct; likely hinting at what may be very complex surface geology or variations in surface composition from place to place,” added New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “These images also continue to support the hypothesis that Pluto has a polar cap whose extent varies with longitude; we’ll be able to make a definitive determination of the polar bright region’s iciness when we get compositional spectroscopy of that region in July.”

The images New Horizons returns will dramatically improve in coming weeks as the spacecraft speeds closer to its July 14 encounter with the Pluto system, covering about 750,000 miles per day.

“By late June the image resolution will be four times better than the images made May 8-12, and by the time of closest approach, we expect to obtain images with more than 5,000 times the current resolution,” said Hal Weaver, the mission’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

Following a January 2006 launch, New Horizons is currently about 2.95 billion miles from home; the spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally.

More info at: Nasa.gov

New Horizons Less Than 100 Days from Pluto

NASA-MeatballSpeeding toward a historic flyby on July 14 – just over 98 days from now – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has moved into the second phase of its approach to Pluto and its moons, beginning a series of observations and activities that will bring these distant, icy worlds into sharper focus than humankind has ever seen.

New Horizons began its long-distance encounter phase with Pluto in January, taking dozens of images used primarily to navigate the spacecraft toward Pluto and using its plasma and energetic-particle sensors and dust detector to sample the environment and learn more about the Sun’s influence – or space weather – near where Pluto orbits 3 billion miles from the Sun. During this first approach phase New Horizons also made an important course-correction homing maneuver on March 10.

In the more intensive Approach Phase 2, which started April 5 and lasts through mid-June, the mission adds numerous new and significant observations of the Pluto system, including the first color and spectral observations of Pluto and its moons, and series of long-exposure images that will help the team spot additional moons or rings in the Pluto system. The spacecraft will also make its first ultraviolet observation to study the surface and atmosphere of Pluto and the surface of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, and the spacecraft will conduct a major joint test of flyby radio science observations in conjunction with NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN). These various activities are critical to developing a fuller picture of that system, and in assessing any hazards New Horizons could face as the spacecraft passes between Pluto and Charon.

Read Complete Article at: New Horizons Mission to Pluto