Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2015 July 9
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

5 Million Miles from Pluto
Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Inst.

Explanation: An image snapped on July 7 by the New Horizons spacecraft while just under 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) from Pluto is combined with color data in this most detailed view yet of the Solar System's most famous world about to be explored. The region imaged includes the tip of an elongated dark area along Pluto's equator already dubbed "the whale". A bright heart-shaped region on the right is about 1,200 miles (2,000) kilometers across, possibly covered with a frost of frozen methane, nitrogen, and/or carbon monoxide. The view is centered near the area that will be seen during New Horizons much anticipated July 14 closest approach to a distance of about 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers).

Tomorrow's picture: in the shadow of M42

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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