Astronomy Picture of the Day
July 14, 2015


Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI and Dr Paolo C. Fienga for the additional process. and color.

In the morning hours of July 12, 2015, Mission Scientists received this new view of Pluto: the most detailed yet returned by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (or "LORRI", for short) onboard the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft. The image was taken on July 11, when the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft was just under approx. 1 Million Miles (such as about 1.609.840 Million KiloMeters) from Pluto, and is one of the first images received since the July 4 "Anomaly Event" that sent the Spacecraft into the so-called "safe mode".

This view is centered roughly on the area that will be seen close-up during New Horizons' July 14 Closest Approach. This side of Pluto is dominated by three broad Regions of varying brightness. Most prominent are an elongated Dark Surface Feature located at (---> near and across) the Equator, informally known as "The Whale", and a large heart-shaped bright area (left - Sx - side of the frame and not fully visible here) measuring some 1.200 miles (such as approx. 1.931,208 Km).

Above those Surface Features there is a Polar Region which is intermediate in brightness. Please notice the large Surface Depression (located at about 8 o'clock of Pluto's Disk) that we - as IPF - have informally nick-named "Anomaly", just to underline the circumstance that the true shape of Pluto is NOT exactly the one of a perfect sphere. Last, but not least, a large and Complex Unnamed Impact Crater can be seen at about 5 o'clock of Pluto's Disk, near the Edge of the Dark Region.

The image (which is an Original NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected frame published on the NASA - New Horizons Mission Page with the ID n. 071215_pluto_alone) has been additionally processed, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, contrast enhanced and sharpened, Gamma corrected and then colorized (according to an educated guess carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga-LXTT-IPF) in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a normal human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft and then looked ahead, towards the Dwarf-Planet Pluto), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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