Astronomy Picture of the Day
October 31, 2015

In the Night of Pluto
In the Night of Pluto

Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process. and color.

In the month of September of the AD 2015, the New Horizons Science Team released a stunning, but still incomplete, image of Pluto's crescent. Thanks to new processing work by the aforementioned New Horizons Science Team, the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft's Science Team itself is now releasing the entire, and truly breathtaking, whole image of Pluto.

This picture was made just about 15 minutes after the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft' closest approach to Pluto, which occurred on July 14, 2015, and while the Sun was behind it. The wide-angle perspective of this view, in fact, shows us very well the deep Haze Layers of Pluto's thin Atmosphere extending all the way around it, and thus revealing the silhouetted profiles of Rugged Plateaux on its Night (left - Sx) Side.

The shadow of Pluto cast on its Atmospheric Hazes can also be seen at the uppermost part of the disk. On the other hand, on the sunlit side of Pluto (right - Dx), the smooth expanse of the (so far) informally named Icy Plain known as Sputnik Planum is flanked to the West (above, in this orientation) by Rugged Mountains up to 11.000 feet (such as roughly 3.352,8 meters) high, including (even in this case, so far) the informally named Norgay Montes, which are barely visible in the foreground, and the Hillary Montes, visible on the skyline. Below (such as to the East) of Sputnik Plaunum, rougher Terrain is cut by what appear Glaciers.

Furthermore, the backlighting (caused by the position of the Sun as to the one of the Spacecraft) highlights - even though they cannot be seen here - more than a dozen High-Altitude Layers of Haze in Pluto's tenuous Atmosphere.

The image was taken with the NASA - New Horizons Spacecrafts' Multi-Spectral Visible Imaging Camera (or "MVIC", for short) from a distance of approx. 11.000 miles (such as aabout 17.702,74 Km) from the Surface of Pluto. The Resolution here is roughly 700 meters (such as about 0,4347 miles) per picture element (---> pixel).

The image (which is an Original NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. 20038) 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 - or an informed speculation, if you wish - 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 outside, 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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