NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has transmitted the best close-up images of Pluto in human history - from 3 billion miles away.
The images were captured with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager aboard New Horizons just 15 minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto - at a range of 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) from the icy planet's surface.
With resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel, the new images are six times better than the resolution of the global Pluto map New Horizons previously obtained, and five times better than the best images of Pluto’s cousin Triton, Neptune’s large moon, obtained by Voyager 2 in 1989.
“These new images give us a breathtaking, super-high resolution window into Pluto’s geology,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there already – down among the craters, mountains and ice fields – less than five months after flyby! The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable."