You would expect that being kicked out of an exclusive group would leave someone resentful. Not Pluto, though. Despite the fact that the celestial body is no longer considered a planet of our solar system, recent pictures captured by New Horizons show that Pluto loves us anyway.
On July 14th, New Horizons will zoom past the dwarf planet and on its way there, it already captured noteworthy pictures of the tiny yet sweet planet. One of these pictures would have us believe that Pluto is in love. It highlights a bright, heart-shaped area measuring approximately 1,200 miles on the planet’s surface.
This new image was taken on the 8th of July, just 5 million miles away from the former gatekeeper of our solar system.
“The next time we see this part of Pluto at closest approach, a portion of this region will be imaged at about 500 times better resolution than we see today,” Jeff Moore, NASA scientist explains.
Pluto is shown displaying regions varying in brightness. Aside from the bright heart that Pluto has decided to show us, the dark “whale” at its equator is also visible, as is one of its polar regions.
This image is the culmination of a nine year trip and has already caused enthusiasm among stargazers and astronomers. Yet one issue does cross everyone’s mind. If it took us so long to actually reach Pluto (close to a decade), why is it that New Horizons will simply fly by without as much as a hello?
New Horizons will not get into orbit because of a number of reasons. The main one involves fuel concerns. Though the spacecraft isn’t particularly large (it is approximately the size of a piano), it required well over 4.67 billion miles worth of fuel to complete its journey. Such amounts of fuel are heavy and they increase the overall costs of the expedition.
Furthermore, because of the small size of Pluto, getting a spacecraft into orbit would be extremely difficult and would require additional rockets.
New Horizons has different plans. It aims to uncover the secrets of this dwarf planet and Charon, its moon. Hopefully, with the data collected thanks to the spacecraft, scientists will be able to better understand how Pluto and its multiple moons fit into our solar system. New Horizons will then proceed towards the Kuiper Belt, and travel even further, a billion miles past Neptune’s orbit, to gain even more valuable insight.
Photo credits: 1