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