NASA has just released a new set of images downloaded from its New Horizons spacecraft that flew past the dwarf planet Pluto on July 14th of this year. These new images are the sharpest images ever taken of Pluto, and are probably the sharpest we’ll ever get again unless another space agency decides to spend another decade waiting for a spacecraft to head out that way again.
The new images, which are stitched together in the vertical panoramic image below, were snapped with New Horizon’s LORRI imager, and show the terrain of Pluto up close, showing its bumpy and cratered surface in incredible vivid detail.
"These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on Planet Earth," said John Grunsfeld, the head of NASA's science directorate. "New Horizons thrilled us during the July flyby with the first close images of Pluto, and as the spacecraft transmits the treasure trove of images in its onboard memory back to us, we continue to be amazed by what we see."
You can also watch NASA's demo video of Pluto's surface below:
NASA is continuing to download more photographs and data from New Horizons, even as it speeds out of our solar system and into the Kuiper Belt, where it will likely meet up and tango with an icy Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) named 2014 MU69 to study its features as well.
The photographs that NASA still has yet to download will include more high-resolution shots of the dwarf planet from other angles, giving astronomers a better look at what the dwarf planet may or may not be hiding.
Even at about 3.25 billion miles away, New Horizons is able to beam information back to NASA here on Earth, where we have incredibly powerful radio receivers capable of reading New Horizon’s signals. The only downside is that it takes a while, hence why we’re still waiting for new photos and information even 5 months after the initial fly by.