On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft performed humanity’s first-ever flyby of Pluto, whizzing past the dwarf planet from 7,800 mile distance. One year later, NASA used more than 100 images collected during the historic event to crop an anniversary video that shows how a landing on the cold world’s surface would be like.
New Horizons spent around 6 weeks approaching the icy planet and gathering science data before it performed the flyby and headed to another target deep within the Kuiper Belt. NASA said that the craft is now 300 million miles farther from Pluto
The space agency explained that when it finally reached Pluto after a 9-year-long trip, New Horizons moved at speeds that could take you from L.A. to New York in less than five minutes. But despite the breathtaking speed, its instruments were able to collect troves of data on the icy planet and its moons.
This year, NASA used the data to produce a short clip showing a close-up view of Pluto and the Solar System’s outer reaches. Agency’s investigators said they used more than 100 photos to compile the short video.
In the video, the craft gets closer to Pluto, takes a look at its largest moon, Charon, and “lands” on the Sputnik Planum.
Alan Stern, mission’s principal investigator and researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, noted that last year, the dwarf planet was just another “dot in the distance.” Stern described the video as an attempt to create the sensation of being abroad on a spacecraft that approaches and lands on Pluto.
New Horizons hasn’t beamed back to Earth all the science data gathered during the flyby as downlink speeds tend to drop as the distance gets longer. The probe has 20 percent left of the data to send. The process is expected to complete at some point in October.
Jim Green head of NASA’s Planetary Science department acknowledged that New Horizons data has taken scientists aback.
‘Who knew that Pluto would have a heart?’
However, a heart-shaped surface feature was not the only surprise. Scientists were shocked to learn that Pluto was not the dead, cold world they had imagined. Instead it is geologically active, and far more complex than originally thought.
Image Source: Wikimedia