NASA has released the first full-frame high resolution photo of Pluto ever taken.
NASA released the first high resolution image of Pluto captured by its New Horizons spacecraft less than 24 hours before its historic flyby of the dwarf planet. The photo provides 1,000 times the detail of images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
The image was captured from a distance of 476,000 miles from Pluto at approximately 4 p.m. EDT on July 13. It is the most detailed image of Pluto returned yet, and was the last photo of Pluto returned to Earth before the New Horizons spacecraft began preparing for its closest approach to the dwarf planet.
The image was captured in black and white by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager on the New Horizons spacecraft and combined with lower resolution color information from the spacecraft’s Ralph instrument acquired prior to July 13.
With a resolution of 4 km per pixel, the photo is about 1,000 times more detailed than the best images of Pluto returned by the Hubble Space Telescope.
New Horizons traveled more than 3 billion miles over more than 9 years to reach Pluto, traveling farther and longer than any other spacecraft in history to reach its primary target. New Horizons conducted the first flyby of Pluto at 7:49:57 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 14.
In a cosmic coincidence, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto capturing the first close-up images of the dwarf planet on the 50th anniversary of the first flyby of Mars. Mariner 4 conducted the first flyby of Mars on July 14, 1965, providing the first up-close images of another planet.
Editor’s Note: This story will be updated as new information becomes available.