NASA releases new Pluto flyover animation

Delia Watkins
July 18, 2017

The New Horizons spacecraft collected more than 1,200 images of Pluto and tens of gigabits of data during its mission which NASA says its scientists are still analyzing. Collecting over 50 gigabits of data during the encounter it took more than a year to transmit all the information back to Earth and scientists are still poring through it.

To celebrate the two-year anniversary of the $896m mission that saw a USA spacecraft fly within 12,550 kilometres of dwarf planet, NASA and the New Horizons team have used images and data sent back to Earth to create a new, highly detailed animation of Pluto's surface.

The first video begins from the Sputnik Planitia, an expanse of nitrogen ice plain.

From there, the flyby footage passes over Sputnik's western border with Cthulhu Macula, which is a dark, craters region located within the nearby highlands.

The second flyover video shows Pluto's largest moon Charon.

The Charon video starts shows a deep canyon called Serenity Chasma, moves north over Dorothy Gale crater, dark polar hood of Mordor Macula, south showing part of Oz Terra and finishing up on the relatively flat equatorial plains of Vulcan Planum and "moated mountains" of Clarke Montes.

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Two years ago, New Horizons sent home the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons, including its largest - Charon.

The digitally rendered videos are color enhanced to highlight certain details, and NASA note the topography is enhanced by a factor of two to three to emphasize the forms of the landscape.

On the two-year anniversary of the flyby, the team of scientists is uncovering a set of detailed, high-quality global maps of Pluto and Charon.

Pluto was long considered to be the ninth planet in the solar system. "These new maps from the landmark exploration of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons mission in 2015 will help unravel these mysteries and are for everyone to enjoy", Stern added.

NASA claims the video offers us "a new perspective" of the planet, given that the imagery allowed for a film that gets closer to the planet's surface than New Horizons ever did. The spacecraft will zoom past a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69 in January 2019.

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