NASA releases clearest images of Pluto world might see for decades

Posted at 12:42 AM, Dec 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-07 00:42:52-05

Black and white images beamed to Earth could be some of the clearest close-ups of Pluto’s surface humans see for decades, NASA says.

The images, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, show craters, mountains and glacial terrain along a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide.

The spacecraft took them in July during its closest flyby of Pluto — which is at a distance from Earth that varies from 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) to 2.66 billion miles (4.28 billion kilometers) — and they were among the most recent batch sent to back to our planet.

“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,” said John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut and the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

The images stretch from Pluto’s horizon — about 800 kilometers (500 miles) northwest of Sputnik Planum — across the al-Idrisi mountains, over the shoreline of Sputnik and across its icy plains, NASA says.

New Horizons sped past Pluto in July but it will take about one year to transfer all the photos and data.

Researchers expect more images to come in over the next week, showing even more terrain at the highest resolution possible.