Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pluto, Getting Clearer

As the hi-resolution photographs from the Pluto flyby are gradually transmitted back to earth, we see Pluto in more and more detail. Above, mosaic of the whole planet(oid) at twice the resolution of the famous image from July 12.

The true color photographs NASA releases are made by combining two different types of data. New Horizons' main camera works in black and white, generating images like this one and the one below. That decision was made because 1) it's really dark that far from the sun, and the scientists wanted the maximum possible resolution, and 2) color images take a lot more bandwidth to transmit, and the scientists were not certain they would have good enough communications with the spacecraft to download everything. But color information is collected by a different instrument, and that color data can be algorithmically added to the black and white photos. So eventually we will see all of these detail shots in color, too.

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