Pluto and Charon
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NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft snapped images of Pluto from a distance of 70 million miles using a Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera with a telescopic lens as it journeys to its rendezvous with the dwarf planet.

Already scientists can see that Pluto has broad surface markings – some bight and some dark – including a bright area at one pole that could be a polar cap.

Also captured in the images is Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, which has a 6.4-day long orbit. The spacecraft was unable to take an image that shows Pluto’s four much smaller moons.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 and is more than 3 billion miles from Earth.

The New Horizon spacecraft will pass about 7,800 miles above the surface of the planet in mid-July.

The New Horizons features a seven-instrument science payload that includes advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a compact multicolor camera, a high-resolution telescopic camera, two powerful particle spectrometers, and a space-dust detector. The vehicle actually started its scrutiny of the Pluto system on January 15.

The spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto will occur on July 14. However, by mid-May we should be getting better images of Pluto than the Hubble Space Telescope has been able to offer.

Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. The New Horizon spacecraft snapped the picture about 70 million miles from the planet.

Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. The New Horizon spacecraft snapped the picture about 70 million miles from the planet.

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