Enlarge / New Horizons’ high-resolution farewell to Pluto. (credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University APL/Southwest Research Institute)
Even though all of the New Horizons spacecraft data taken during its 2015 flyby of Pluto has been downloaded to Earth for months, scientists are still piecing it all together. Now two scientists, Tod Lauer and Alex Parker, have processed some of the New Horizons data to produce a stunning look back at the dwarf planet.
This departure shot was constructed from a mosaic of six black-and-white images captured by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager as the spacecraft moved away from Pluto.
Color has been added from a lower resolution Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera.
At the time the pictures were taken, New Horizons was only about 200,000km away from Pluto, or about 3.5 hours after the closest approach on July 14, 2015.
The resolution of the images stitched together is about 1km per pixel.
In this composite photo, Pluto is illuminated from behind by the Sun, almost as if the world is producing an annular eclipse for New Horizons.
The image showcases a beautiful blue “haze” which, according to planetary scientists, is smog produced by sunlight interacting with methane and other molecules in Pluto’s atmosphere.
These larger molecules scatter blue sunlight.
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