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So Far, All Clear: New Horizons Team Completes First Search for Pluto System Hazards
Release Date: May 28, 2015
This image shows the results of the New Horizons team’s first search for potentially hazardous material around Pluto, conducted May 11-12, 2015, from a range of 47 million miles (76 million kilometers). The image combines 48 10-second exposures, taken with the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), to offer the most sensitive view yet of the Pluto system.
The left panel is a combination of the original images before any processing. The combined glare of Pluto and its large moon Charon in the center of the field, along with the thousands of background stars, overwhelm any faint moons or rings that might pose a threat to the New Horizons spacecraft.
The central panel is the same image after extensive processing to remove Pluto and Charon’s glare and most of the background stars, revealing Pluto’s four small moons — Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra — as points of light. The right panel overlays the orbits and locations of all five moons, including Charon. Remaining unlabeled spots and blemishes in the processed image are imperfectly removed stars, including variable stars which appear as bright or dark dots. The faint grid pattern is an artifact of the image processing. Celestial north is up in these images.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute