New Horizons expected to reveal more about Pluto and Charon

New Horizons expected to reveal more about Pluto and Charon

Astronomers are hopeful that data being collected by NASA spacecraft New Horizons would help them know more about Pluto and its tiny moons.

New Horizons recently provided scientists with first-ever color photos of Pluto and its moon Charon. NASA released the photos back on April 14, exactly three months before the probe's planned flyby of Pluto and its moons.

Captured from a distance of more than 70 million miles, the photos are quite blurry. Still they allowed scientists to estimate what the faraway celestial body looks like. Pluto in the photos looks bright and red, while its moon Charon appears dimmer.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator at Science Mission Directorate at Washington-based NASA Headquarters, "Scientific literature is filled with papers on the characteristics of Pluto and its moons from ground based and Earth-orbiting space observations, but we've never studied Pluto up close and personal."

Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission, described Pluto as a "complex" body, with seasons, atmosphere, and active surface markings that indicate an exchanging of materials between the celestial body's surface and atmosphere.

Scientists say Pluto's surface has three known volatiles, viz. carbon dioxide, nitrogen and methane. In contrast, Charon has only water ice and no volatiles on its surface.

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