Mapping Pluto and Charon

Images from the New Horizons spaceprobe have been used to produce some wonderful (although incomplete) maps of Pluto (above) and Charon (below). The names are not yet official, although I must say I like the names “Balrog Macula,” “Cthulhu Regio,” and “Skywalker Crater.” Click the pictures to go to the hi-res versions.

Pictures from Pluto

The New Horizons spaceprobe (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute artist’s rendering above) is about to reach closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Below are two preliminary pictures of Pluto (left) and Charon (right) taken recently. Better images should be available very soon.

How did we get here? Below, summarising some of my past posts, are four pictures of Pluto taken by New Horizons over the last two years of its journey. There’s nothing like getting close and personal with a camera!

Closer and closer to Pluto

The New Horizons spaceprobe is now about 10 million km from Pluto, and zooming closer every day. A worrying glitch with communications has now been solved. Below is an animated colour image of Pluto and its moon Charon taken by New Horizons last month, but much better pictures can be expected in just a few days.

A first glimpse of Charon

The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 to study Pluto and its moons. The spacecraft is expected to arrive two years and two days from now. But it hasn’t been idle: the image below, taken about 10 days ago, shows Pluto from a distance of 880 million km. The white blob is Pluto, and next to it the moon Charon can just be seen. Not much, perhaps, but as the months go by, the pictures will get more and more awesome.