Very Best Views of Pluto

Explanation: The sharpest views of Pluto that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft obtained during its flyby of the distant planet on July 14, 2015 are part of a sequence taken near closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel — revealing features smaller than half a city block on Pluto's diverse surface. The images include a wide variety of spectacular, cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains — giving scientists and the public alike a breathtaking, super-high resolution window on Pluto's geology. The images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide trending from Pluto's jagged horizon about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, onto the shoreline of Sputnik Planum and then across its icy plains. They were made with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, over a timespan of about a minute centered on 11:36 UT on July 14 — just about 15 minutes before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto —from a range of just 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). They were obtained with an unusual observing mode; instead of working in the usual "point and shoot," LORRI snapped pictures every three seconds while the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons was scanning the surface. This mode requires unusually short exposures to avoid blurring the images.


Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI