PIA19856: A Binary Planet in Color

A Binary Planet in Color


Pluto and Charon are shown in enhanced color in this image, which is the highest-resolution color image of the pair so far returned to Earth by New Horizons. It was taken at 06:49 UT on July 14, 2015, five hours before Pluto closest approach, from a range of 150,000 miles (250,000 kilometers), with the spacecraft's Ralph instrument.

The image highlights the contrasting appearance of the two worlds: Charon is mostly gray, with a dark reddish polar cap, while Pluto shows a wide variety of subtle color variations, including yellowish patches on the north polar cap and subtly contrasting colors for the two halves of Pluto's "heart," informally named Tombaugh Regio, seen in the upper right quadrant of the image.

In order to fit Pluto and Charon in the same frame in their correct relative positions, the image has been rotated so the north pole on both Pluto and Charon is pointing towards the upper left. The image was made with the blue, red, and near-infrared color filters of Ralph's Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera, and shows colors that are similar, but not identical, to what would be seen with the human eye, which is sensitive to a narrower range of wavelengths.

Background Info:

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Cataloging Keywords:

Name Value Additional Values
Target Pluto Charon
System Pluto Kuiper Belt
Target Type Satellite Dwarf Planet, KBO
Mission New Horizons
Instrument Host New Horizons
Host Type Flyby Spacecraft
Instrument Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC)
Extra Keywords Color, Infrared, Rotation
Acquisition Date
Release Date 2015-07-23
Date in Caption 2015-07-14
Image Credit NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Source photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19856
Identifier PIA19856