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 18

Fly Over Pluto
Video Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Inst.

Explanation: It took 9.5 years to get this close, but you can now take a virtual flight over Pluto in this animation of image data from the New Horizons spacecraft. The Plutonian terrain unfolding 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) below is identified as Norgay Montes, followed by Sputnik Planum. The icy mountains, informally named for one of the first two Mount Everest climbers Tenzing Norgay, reach up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface. The frozen, young, craterless plains are informally named for the Earth's first artificial satellite. Sputnik Planum is north of Norgay Montes, within Pluto's expansive, bright, heart-shaped feature provisionally known as Tombaugh Regio for Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

Tomorrow's picture: NASA Begins

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