Nasa New Horizons probe sends first close-up images of Pluto back to Earth

The pictures have travelled slowly through 5.2 billion km from the probe to Earth 

Jess Staufenberg
Saturday 05 December 2015 13:08
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Best pics of Pluto released

Images from the closest flyby to Pluto in human history have been sent back to Earth by the space probe which took them.

The New Horizons probe, which Nasa sent to explore the edges of the solar system in 2006, has returned super-sharp pictures from its historic flyby of the dwarf planet during July this year.

The pictures of Pluto are close enough that, if they were of the Earth, one could easily discern a city park, according to the BBC.

In this highest-resolution image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains.

Nasa explains the reason for the nine year space mission on its website:

"The New Horizons mission is helping us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto," it says.

Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015.

"And by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation."

The Kuiper belt is a region beyond the orbit of Neptune believed to contain smaller bodies made mostly of ice.

Pluto, meanwhile, is shown in the pictures to have water-ice mountains, craters and nitrogen-rich ice fields.

New Horizons was about 12,500km from the surface of the dwarf planet when it took the pictures, the BBC reported.

But the information has travelled very slowly back to Earth owing to the vast separation of 5.2 billion km and relatively small transmitter on the probe.

It will continue to press on into space and is on course to fly by another object in three years time.

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