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Pluto, backlit

Crescent Pluto, acquired as New Horizons sped past in July on its way deeper into the Kuiper Belt.

Image via New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015.

View larger. | Crescent Pluto. This world is 1,473 miles (2,370 km) wide. Image via NASA / JHU-APL / SWRI/ New Horizons spacecraft.

The New Horizons spacecraft looked back to a crescent Pluto, after sweeping past this world in July, 2015. The sun is behind Pluto in this image. New Horizons acquired the view using the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) onboard.

Here, Pluto’s ice mountains Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes can be seen rising as high as approximately 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above Pluto’s surface. The so-called Sputnik Planum within the Tombaugh Regio stretches to the horizon on the right.

The frigid, very thin, cold atmosphere is seen with layers of haze. The average surface temperature of Pluto is minus 367 Fahrenheit (minus 232 Celsius). If our own Earth cooled to the same temperatures, our oceans would freeze almost all the way down and our atmosphere would collapse and freeze into a layer of frozen gasses 35 feet (11 meters) thick.

New Horizons aiming toward next target

Bottom line: As New Horizons sped past in July, it looked back to a crescent Pluto.

Andrew R. Brown

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