For the now, what the spacecraft is doing is to continue to return pictures and other data on approach to Pluto, even though the dwarf is still currently only a very small feature in the distance.
Pluto and its largest moon Charon are being seen like never before as the New Horizons spacecraft closes in on the system. The discrepancy in their color is yet another mystery that researchers hope to resolve soon. But it is finally homing in on its ultimate destination.
As NASA’s New Horizons is fast approaching for its July 14 rendezvous with Pluto.
New Horizons has been using its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to scout ahead for any new moons or rings surrounding Pluto. In previous images, the two objects often looked like highly pixelated smudges of color – barely distinguishable as spheres.
Though Pluto meets the first and second criterion of being a planet-it is a celestial body orbiting the Sun with a sufficient enough mass to assume a round shape-because of the third criterion, which specifies that the planet must clear the area around its orbit.
“We’ve known before New Horizons that there are lots of bright and dark patches [on Pluto]”, New Horizons co-investigator Marc Buie told Mashable in an interview. While we’re practically learning more about Pluto every day, the flyby will give us more detailed and far-superior images of this diminutive member of the solar system, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Astronomers already knew that there was methane on Pluto since 1976, but this was the first direct detection of the chemical compound made by a measuring apparatus.
The command sequences must also indicate where Pluto is located relative to the probe, and thus where New Horizons should point its instruments.
Its time when the American New Horizons spacecraft gets a lot closer and captures a lot better, the dwarf planet’s surface with its 80m per pixel LORRI camera. Once considered our ninth planet, it was reclassified as a dwarf in 2006 just seven months after the launch of New Horizons. Dark and light regions are starting to be seen in more detail as the spacecraft draws nearer, and a dark polar cap has been spotted on Charon, the largest moon of Pluto.
New Horizons blasted into space atop an Atlas V rocket in January 2006.
Observing that will help NASA determine the composition of Pluto’s atmosphere.
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