Published: Tue, July 18, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

NASA Successfully Completes Probe On Pluto

NASA Successfully Completes Probe On Pluto

Now, using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models, mission scientists have created flyover movies of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

On July 14, 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made its historic flight through the Pluto system.

The video starts just southwest of Sputnik Planitia - the huge plains of nitrogen ice that form part of Pluto's signature giant heart. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra - which exhibits deep and wide pits - before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.

"The exciting flight over Charon begins high over the hemisphere New Horizons saw on its closest approach, then descends over the deep, wide canyon of Serenity Chasma", NASA said on YouTube. 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.

The space agency also a number of released detailed maps and illustrations of Pluto and its largest moon, such as this one showing possible "snowcaps" of frozen methane on mountain peaks.

For example, topographic relief was exaggerated by a factor of two to three and certain surface colors were enhanced, according to NASA.

"The complexity of the Pluto system - from its geology to its satellite system to its atmosphere- has been beyond our wildest imagination", Alan Stern, an investigator for the New Horizons spacecraft, said in a statement.

The probe captured the first-ever close-up pictures after coming within 7,800 miles (12,550km) of the dwarf planet back in July 2015, providing us Earthlings with a whole new perspective of the icy rock at the edge of our solar system.

NASA's New Horizons mission has been instrumental in building knowledge about Pluto. It aims to pass an object labelled 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.

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