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Three Views of Pluto (Annotated)
Release Date: July 6, 2015
These high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft include one showing the four mysterious dark spots that have captured the imagination of the world. The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) obtained these three images between July 1-3, 2015.
The left image shows, on the right side of the disk, a large bright area on the hemisphere of Pluto that will be seen close-up by New Horizons on July 14, 2015. The three images together show the full extent of a continuous swath of dark terrain that wraps around much of Pluto’s equatorial region. The western end of the swath (right image) breaks up into a series of striking dark regularly-spaced spots, each hundreds of miles in size, which were first detected in New Horizons images taken in late June. Intriguing details are beginning to emerge in the bright material north of the dark region, in particular a series of bright and dark patches that are conspicuous just below the center of the disk in the right image. In all three black-and-white views, the apparent jagged bottom edge of Pluto is the result of image processing.
Image details are as follows. Left: Taken on July 1st at 22:53 UT, from a range of 9.2 million miles (14.9 million km), with a central longitude of 133°. Center: Taken on July 3rd at 04:38 UT, from a range of 8.3 million miles (13.5 million km), with a central longitude of 63°. Right: Taken on July 3rd at 23:25 UT, from a range of 7.8 million miles (12.5 million km), with a central longitude of 19°. The outline globe shows the orientation of Pluto in each image; solid lines mark the equator and the prime meridian (longitude 0°), which is defined as the direction facing Charon. The northern hemisphere is tilted towards the spacecraft. All images have been sharpened using a process called deconvolution.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute