New Horizons spots Pluto and Charon

PLUTO CHARON.jpg

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, using its highest-resolution telescopic  camera, has spotted Pluto’s Texas-sized, ice-covered moon Charon for the first  time. This represents a major milestone on the spacecraft’s 9½-year journey to conduct the initial reconnaissance of the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt and,  in a sense, begins the mission’s long-range study of the Pluto system.

The largest of Pluto’s five known moons, Charon orbits about 12,000 miles (more than 19,000 kilometers) away from Pluto itself. As seen from New Horizons,  that’s only about 0.01 degrees away.

When these images were taken on  July 1 and July 3, 2013, the New Horizons spacecraft was still about 550  million miles (880 million kilometers) from Pluto. On July 14, 2015, the spacecraft is scheduled to pass just 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers) above  Pluto’s surface.

 

 Artists' conception of New Horizons passing by Pluto and Charon in July 2015.

Artists' conception of New Horizons passing by Pluto and Charon in July 2015.