The historical Pluto fly-by occurred more than two months ago as the New Horizons space ship was the first ever ship sent into outer space to Pluto and beyond. July 14th was the great day, but greater days followed as pictures from the legendary journey reached Earth. The greatest moment that specialists are still waiting for occurred at 7:50 during that morning.
But why are specialists “still waiting” for it, you might ask? It is because that was the moment when New Horizons gathered a great amount of information and it takes time until all of it reaches our now distant planet. And that was not the end of it all. Data is still being transmitted every moment and we will be able to see how our solar system truly looks like from the outside.
As New Horizons escaped the world that we now, it took one last photo of what we could perceive as a “Plutonian sunset”. A dark, icy world, embraced by the unknown and mildly touched by the light of a faraway star. The photo was taken after New Horizons had already travelled 11,000 miles behind Pluto.
Alan Stern, the New Horizons Principal Investigator, is expressed his excitement when he saw the new picture and he stated that “this image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself”. And it is true. The high quality of the photos make beholders see and almost feel how it is to be close to the faraway dwarf planet.
Scientists have named the right side of the revealed territory Sputnik Planum, just like the first artificial satellite that belongs to our dear planet. It is an informal term, but it gives scientists a temporary term to refer to in their debates and studies. The western plain actually reveals 11,000 feet high mountains and glaciers seem to cut through the rough terrain.
What is also interesting is that Pluto’s atmosphere reveals that weather is changing on the planet from one day to another. The major indicator is the extended nitrogen quantity that rises up to at least 60 miles above the dwarf’s surface. Although the planet is very far away and it is extremely cold, it does have a weather of its own that has specific variations.
We are now eager to see what New Horizons will send to us from beyond the solar system but, until then, there are many more Pluto images that might reveal new information about the dwarf at the edge of the world.
Photo Credits pbs.org