Methane on Pluto confirmed: NASA

However, it’s thought that Charon may have formed after a big impact on Pluto, blasting material into orbit that coalesced to form the moon.

Several spots are evenly spaced along Pluto’s equator, with each having a diameter of about 300 miles, according to NASA.

Will Grundy is the New Horizons Surface Composition team leader with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“This maneuver was perfectly performed by the spacecraft and its operations team”, said mission principal investigator Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

“Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colours and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon”.

The pictures were created when the researchers combined two sets of images. New Horizons Closest Approach to Pluto: 7:49:57 a.m. EDT, July 14, 2015.

New Horizons controllers have decided the way is clear for a nominal course through Pluto system, passing up their final opportunity for a shift onto a different trajectory to avoid debris or other hazards.

The latest true-color images of Pluto and Charon depicting two distinct hemispheres of Pluto and the mysterious “dark patch” on Charon. However, only seven months after the spacecraft launched, its mission would be changed as Pluto was officially demoted from planet to dwarf planet. The space agency believes the methane could date back to Pluto’s creation and could be remains from the nebula that birthed the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

In one of the oddest mash-ups you may ever read about, members of the 70s/80s rock band Styx were on Wednesday treated to a tour of New Horizons’ Mission Control at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. We haven’t done anything like this since Voyager in the 1980s, and nothing like it is planned to ever happen again – a first exploration of a new planet – by any space agency on Earth.

The demotion came after heated debate in the astronomical community drew proposals regarding Pluto’s inclusion or exclusion as a planet.

The infrared spectrometer on the New Horizons spacecraft has detected frozen methane on Pluto’s surface; Earth-based astronomers first observed the chemical compound on Pluto in 1976. The video below shows New Horizons approaching the Pluto system from a distance of about 35 million miles to 14 million miles.


p style=”text-align: center;”>In this artists rendering NASA's New Horizons spacecraft approaches Pluto


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