Fresh images of the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, have been recently returned by the New Horizons spacecraft of NASA. The spacecraft is expected to have its closest encounter with the dwarf planet in July. The images were released by NASA on Wednesday which marked the 109th birth anniversary of Clyde Tombaugh, an American astronomer who, in 1930, discovered the icy world. Annette Tombaugh, Clyde’s daughter stated “My dad would be thrilled with New Horizons. To actually see the planet that he had discovered, and find out more about it — to get to see the moons of Pluto — he would have been astounded.”
According to a statement released by NASA, the New Horizons space probe captured the images between Jan. 25 and Jan. 27. Bright images of both Pluto and Charon have been snapped by the probe’s high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). LORRI is scheduled to capture a series of pictures in the coming months and these are the first set of images among them. The probe was launched in the year 2006 and since then it has covered a distance of over 3 billion miles. Presently it is located at a distance of about 120 million miles from Pluto. Astronomers are hoping that the probe will start sending the highest-resolution photos of the dwarf planet ever taken, in May.
Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado Commented “These images of Pluto, clearly brighter and closer than those New Horizons took last July from twice as far away, represent our first steps at turning the pinpoint of light Clyde saw in the telescopes at Lowell Observatory 85 years ago, into a planet before the eyes of the world this summer.”