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Ep. 27, Page 22
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Comic 1971 - Ep. 27, Page 22

12th Sep 2015, 1:20 AM in Episode 27 :: Save My Place | Load My Place
Average Rating: 5 (2 votes)

Author Notes:

smbhax 12th Sep 2015, 1:20 AM edit delete
smbhax
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, now more than 69 million kilometers beyond Pluto (and 5 billion kilometers from Earth), has shifted from observation to data transmission mode, so we are now starting to receive its first real high-resolution images, for much sharper views than the earlier, compressed preview images we got several months ago at the time of its historic flyby. The plan is to post batches of new images here every Friday; the first batch, though, is in its own page here; this will supply many weeks of fascinating images—according to the BBC, it will take until "late in 2016" for all the Pluto flyby images to get back to Earth.

These new images are pretty darn sharp—here's a 350 km-wide shot showing some of the surprisingly awesome variety of surface features found on the dwarf planet, particularly some of the darker, less reflective areas (all images by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute):

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Some of those areas almost look like dunes—but how Pluto's atmosphere, 10,000 times thinner than Earth's, could generate winds powerful enough to create dunes even in Pluto's low gravity is quite a puzzler; there may be some other explanation for what those are.

The new images include a good view of Pluto's largest moon, the full 1,200 km diameter of Charon:

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Charon is no slouch when it comes to variety of surface features, either! The darker area toward the top is its north polar region.

Then there's the neat effect New Horizons observed after it had passed Pluto, looking back at its dark side: the distant Sun shining through the dwarf planet's light atmospheric haze produces a lovely halo effect:

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I dipped back into the older, lower-resolution images just to be able to show something of what Pluto's small moons Nix (~42 km, lengthwise)

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and Hydra (~55 km long)

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look like; we should be getting sharper views of them in later image transmissions.

We'll no doubt get a sharper version of this, too, but it's such a darling image I couldn't wait: a view of Pluto and Charon from five days before the July 14th flyby, when New Horizons was still 6.3 million km away:

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So cute! ^_^

Comments:

cattservant 12th Sep 2015, 12:18 PM edit delete reply
cattservant
Had their chance.
smbhax 14th Sep 2015, 9:49 PM edit delete reply
smbhax
Aw!
moizmad 12th Sep 2015, 5:49 PM edit delete reply
moizmad
But all the 'dozers were in the bar stinkin' drunk....gonna fall behind schedule for sure.
smbhax 14th Sep 2015, 9:49 PM edit delete reply
smbhax
And don't drink and 'doze!