US space agency NASA’s New Horizons probe has sent some of the incredible pictures of the dwarf planet Pluto which was released on Tuesday.
The first spacecraft to visit distant Pluto, which was launched for a 3-billion-mile journey in January 2006 from Florida, is still three months away from having a close encounter with the dwarf planet located in the frozen backyard of our solar system. According to the space agency, the New Horizons spacecraft has reached a viewing range and will cover the rest journey to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt region beyond Neptune in three months time.
NASA said that the spacecraft will be passing approximately 7,750 miles (or 12,500 km) from the surface of Pluto on July 14.
Pluto, which was once known as the ninth planet of our solar system, was demoted to be called as dwarf planet after the astronomers discovered existence of similar icy bodies in eccentric, distant orbits around the Sun.
In the newly released color images, Pluto appears like a bright dot with a diameter of only 1,430 miles, i.e. approximately two-thirds the size of the moon of Earth.
Alice Bowman, operations manager for the New Horizons mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said, “Our team has worked hard to get to this point, and we know we have just one shot to make this work. We’ve plotted out each step of the Pluto encounter, practiced it over and over, and we’re excited the ‘real deal’ is finally here.”
The recent pictures are of greater importance to the engineers as they are serving as a road map for the control teams that are working on tweaking New Horizon’s approach.