In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent home the first close-up pictures of Pluto and its moons, possibly the only close-ups of these worlds some of us will ever see of these extremely distant worlds in the outer solar system. To celebrate the two-year anniversary of New Horizons’ flyover of the Pluto system, NASA has released these two awesome videos.
They’re made from actual New Horizons data, combined with digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon. NASA said its scientists created these two flyover movies to offer spectacular new perspectives on the unusual terrain they found in the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.
Here’s how NASA described the Pluto flyover video (above):
This Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. 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. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra – which exhibits deep and wide pits – before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.
And there’s also a flyover video of Pluto’s large moon Charon (below):
NASA described it this way:
The equally exciting flight over Charon begins high over the hemisphere New Horizons saw on its closest approach, then descends over the deep, wide canyon of Serenity Chasma. The view moves north, passing over Dorothy Gale crater and the dark polar hood of Mordor Macula. The flight then turns south, covering the northern terrain of Oz Terra before ending over the relatively flat equatorial plains of Vulcan Planum and the “moated mountains” of Clarke Montes.
Bottom line: Flyover videos of Pluto and it’s large moon Charon created from New Horizon data.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.