Nasa has just released this astonishing new picture of Pluto ahead of the flyby which is now less than 10 minutes away now and the countdown is on as we speak! The heart-shaped feature which was first spotted last week is more visible, as is the reddish hue.
Pluto is red Nasa has announced. The space agency was expecting a dark grey icy planet, however they were in for a surprise when it turned out oxidized like Mars. And, controversially, Nasa administrator Charles Bolden says he still believes Pluto is a planet:
“We expect to see more of what we have seen to us from the red planet Pluto. It’s not an icy planet. It’s red. How can the surface be red? The geological world is excited about something they didn’t even think they would be involved in. Geologists are marvelling at the color and thinking how can that be so far away from the Sun.
We’re calling Pluto a planet, technically it’s a dwarf planet. I call it a planet, but I’m not the rule maker. It’s a big day for Nasa. The US today has become the first nation to visit every planet in our Solar System.”
“We wanted to demonstrate that we could navigate the last known planet in our Solar System. That is an incredible technological achievement.”
“I expected to see some cold, grey icy planet. It has reddish tint, not unlike Mars. That’s fascinating. We continue to be mesmerized by this incredible planet and its moons.”
New readings from New Horizons are suggesting that Pluto is bigger than we thought. It’s a slightly larger dwarf. Mission scientists say it is 1,473 miles in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates of 1,400 miles. Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University has this to say:
“Maybe we need to reconsider its status again. What once was a planet and was demoted to a dwarf planet, obscure and without any clear images of the surface, will be explored to great depth.
These are exciting times. The New Horizon space probe will shoot past Pluto and its moons with an amazing 14 km/s this lunchtime. Never before have we seen Pluto in such detail or even visited it.
Pluto has sent us all its images so far and is now focusing on data acquisition alone. We’ll find out Wednesday early morning if the probe made it safely past Pluto. But it will still take more than a year to transmit all the data back to Earth.”
“The signals will take 4.5 hours to travel to Earth using bit rates reminding us of internet dialup.”