Pluto’s surface is gradually revealing the eyes of New Horizons. A series of new images obtained with the instrument-telescopic (LORRI) between late May and early June has been processed with the proven model of “deconvolution” that exploits the accurate superimposition of four sequential shots to get a higher detail. They show good part of a complete revolution of the dwarf planet around its axis (the periods of revolution and rotation of Pluto and Charon are synchronized and are worth about 6.4 days) and are shown above.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
The rotation axis is in a vertical position and, going from left to right, the longitude of the center point that is respectively 17 °, 63 °, 130 °, and 243 °, while the shooting distance decreases by 10% going from right to left. E ‘it was also made public a video showing the satellite Charon in rotation around Pluto; that movement is an illusion due to the way in which it is assembled video, both bodies actually revolve around the common center of mass. To mate Pluto the albedo is lower and more uniform surface, but also in this case seems to see lighter spots especially in the southern hemisphere. Below the images of Charon, extracted from the video and separated by about one day to one another:
Pluto is a complex world, with an alternation of land very reflective and very dark areas, with areas of intermediate brightness between the two. These images offer the best views ever obtained of the Pluto system. The contrast in these images was still exaggerated to bring out details and more, as the deconvolution can sometimes produce artifacts, the team is carefully examining the latest images to determine if some intriguing details seen previously persist. The ‘non-spherical appearance of Pluto in these images is not real; results from a combination of techniques for image processing and large variations of surface brightness. Since April, the deconvolute images allowed the science team to identify a wide range of surface characteristics over the entire surface of Pluto, including the area in a light pole that scientists believe is a polar cap itself. “Although the latest images are taken by more than 50 million km away, showing an area increasingly complex, with clear evidence of alternating light and dark equatorial regions,” says Alan Stern (New Horizons Principal Investigator, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado). “We can also see that every face of Pluto is different and shows the northern hemisphere land substantially dark, although the brightest and darkest regions of Pluto are on the equator or just below it.”
“We are squeezing as much information as possible on these images, seeing details that we have never seen before,” said Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “We had evidence of light and dark spots in the images of the Hubble Space Telescope and in previous images of NewHorizons, but these new images show an area more and more complex and nuanced. Now, we want to start to learn more about what these different portions of the surface might be and how they are generated, in early July we will have the first spectroscopic data to understand.”
The last image of the sequence goes back more than a week ago; since in fact the probe is further approached to less than 40 million km (see the mission Log) and is continuing to take pictures even closer, as shown in the mosaic updated below, based on the images “raw” published almost in time real NASA to this address:
Finally, NASA recently published a schedule of television news and the press conferences that take place in the coming weeks to keep us informed. Until July 7 it will report weekly (every Tuesday) while in the hottest week before the flyby will be daily updates.