Here are some new images just released on Friday (December 4, 2015). They are the closest ever of Pluto … likely to be the closest we will ever see during our lifetimes. The New Horizons team finally had these some of these downloaded. Apparently, there are a few more still awaiting transmission from New Horizons. The higher priority general views were downlinked first then the sharper views of both Pluto and Charon followed. Having said that, these are, of course, also of immense scientific importance.
I have brightened and contrast enhanced a few of the images below.
These images have been rotated so north is top. The face on images have an astonishing resolution of 77 meters (84 yards) and those towards the limb are not at all shabby at a remarkable of 88 meters (96 yards). These are among the sharpest images of another planetary body other than those closely orbited or landed upon.
We need to remind ourselves of what we are looking at here. This is Pluto!
By the way, the average surface temperature of Pluto is minus 367 Fahrenheit (minus 232 Celsius). If our own Earth cooled to the same temperature, our oceans would freeze almost all the way down and our atmosphere would collapse and freeze into a layer of frozen gases 35 feet thick (11 meters) thick.
Pluto is 1,473 miles (2,370 km) wide. That’s in contrast to Earth’s diameter of nearly 8,000 miles (nearly 13,000 km).
Bottom line: The New Horizons swept past Pluto on July 14, 2015. It may be the only Pluto flyby in our lifetimes. Images are still being returned. The ones on this page – released December 4, 2015 – are among the sharpest of another planetary body, other than those closely orbited or landed upon.
Andrew R. Brown, an avid follower of the space program, writes frequently about space topics for EarthSky. Over several years, he has also suggested observations that were carried out by imaging teams of some space missions. He has lives in Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom and works for local government, Kent County Council.