NASA just posted an incredible flyover video of Pluto, one of the planet in the Kuiper belt. These images are published two years after the New Horizons mission sent the historical images of the dwarf planet back to Earth.

Thanks to the New Horizon probe, stunning pictures of this distant icy planet are available. It shows Pluto’s plains and mountains ranges. it also shows Pluto’s biggest moon.

Image credit: Waspie_Dwarf Youtube Channel
Image credit: Waspie_Dwarf Youtube Channel

“The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right,” stated the description provided by NASA

New Horizons became the first probe to explore Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons is a space probe that was launched in January 2006 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It is part of NASA’s New Frontiers program. It was led by S. Alan Stern with the collaboration from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). Its main mission was to fly and study Kuiper belt objects (KBOs), such as Pluto. it was set to perform a flyby of this planet in 2015.

First, New Horizons made an encounter with Jupiter on 2007. After it left Jupiter behind, it was in hibernation to protect the onboard system; but on December 2014, it was reactivated just before it met Pluto. In January 2015, it made its encounter with the cold dwarf planet.

At the end, the main goal of the New Horizons was to understand how Pluto was formed, to acquire more information about the Kuiper belt and the early stages of the formation of the Solar System.

Exploring the icy, rocky planet at the edge of the solar system

On July 2015, the spacecraft flew 12,500 km (7,800 mi) above the surface of Pluto, as a part of the flyby study it had to perform. In October 2016, New Horizon recorded the last data from Pluto. Now, that NASA has received, analyzed and organized all these data it has published a stunning video with amazing close-up pictures of this rocky planet that is really far away from Earth. That way, Earthlings can have an idea of how Pluto looks like and some other interesting things about this world. The video also includes digital elevation models of the dwarf planet. It shows how it would be like to zoom over the planet.

According to NASA, the newly released video starts over the highlands southwest of the great area of named “Sputnik Planitia,” which is a plain place made out of nitrogen ice. The video continues over the western margin of Sputnik where there is a very dark place called Cthulhu Macula, a cratered terrain. As well. Some incredibly high mountains can be seen on the right.

As the flyover goes north, Pluto unveils the Voyager Terra, which is a system of rugged and fractured mountains. Then it continues to the Pioneer Terra and the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa which are at the eastern area of the hemisphere.

Image credit: Nine Planets
Image credit: Nine Planets

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. It is found in the Kuiper belt, which is beyond Neptune. It was wrongly considered the ninth planet of the solar system. Its character as a planet was put into question after similar objects were found in the Kuiper Belt. Due to this discussion and the appearance of new data the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defined the term “planet” formally in 2006, during their 26th General Assembly resulting in the exclusion of Pluto which was then classified as a dwarf planet. However, it is the largest dwarf planet and is mainly made of ice and rock.

Pluto (minor-planet designation: 134340 Pluto) is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered, and the light from the sun reaches Pluto in 5.5 hours.

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body.

NASA also presented Pluto’s largest Moon

With the data that was collected by New Horizons, NASA also created an exclusive video flyover to introduce Pluto’s largest Moon Charon. The agency published maps of both the planet and the moon. Pluto has other four moons Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Charon’s diameter is half of that of Pluto.

New Horizon has proven to be successful in the accomplishment of its unique goal. It collected more than 1,200 images of Pluto and tens of gigabits of data during its mission. However, its work in space isn’t over yet. New Horizons Probe went deeper into the Kuiper Belt, a huge area containing  ‘objects’, most of them are rocky and are completely frozen. Hopefully, it will get to pass an object called 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. Meanwhile, scientists at NASA continue to analyses all the data sent by the probe for new experiments, studies, and conclusions.

Source: The Verge