The US space agency NASA has released the most detailed map of the dwarf planet Pluto till date. The map has been made by stitching several detailed images clicked by the historic New Horizons spacecraft. After completing nearly a decade long journey, NASA’s New Horizons made its historic flyby of Pluto nearly eight months ago and since then it has been clicking sharpest images of the dwarf planet.
Communication speed between NASA and spacecraft is in the orders of bits per second, therefore, images come at a very slow speed from the intrepid space probe. After facing several difficulties, scientists have managed to produce most detailed and sharpest map of Pluto yet. Scientists say that it will take another year to receive the complete set of images of the flypast due to bandwidth limitations.
The newly released map has been made from the images clicked between July 7 to 14, 2015. In addition, scientists have also used some images received as recently as April 25. The black-and-white map consists several detailed information that was previously not known to scientists.
The new map is our sharpest view yet of Pluto, with pixel resolutions ranging from 18 miles (30 km) on the Charon-facing side (left and right edges of the map) to 770 feet (235 meters) on the side facing New Horizons when it made its closest approach on July 14. The blurry non-encounter side is shown in less detail owing to the greater distances at which the images were captured. NASA is continuing to add photos as it receives them, and it’s also working on improved color maps.
NASA also released this shaded relief view (below) of the region surrounding the left side of Pluto’s distinctive heart-shaped feature, informally dubbed Sputnik Planum.
The New Horizons spacecraft is an interplanetary space probe that was launched on 19 Jan 2006. Moving at thrice the speed of a bullet, the spacecraft made its first flypast of the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015, and since then it has been monitoring the Pluto.
First published on May 3, 2016, 01:45 PM