The bright heart of Pluto has been burned into our consciousness, thanks to scads of high-resolution pictures. But a new set of images from NASA’s New Horizons mission provides an all-around view of the dwarf planet, including the splotchy shapes that went out of view days before the time of closest approach on July 14.
Another 10-picture set shows Pluto’s biggest moon, Charon, from all sides.
The imagery was captured over the course of a full Plutonian day, which is 6.4 Earth days long. New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and the Ralph / Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera were trained on the icy worlds as the distance to Pluto decreased from 5 million miles on July 7 to 400,000 miles on July 13.
Because of the differences in distance, New Horizons’ best-resolution view of Pluto is at the 6 o’clock position, showing the heart-shaped region that’s been dubbed Tombaugh Regio. The best view of Charon, which highlights the polar dark spot nicknamed Mordor Macula and the canyon informally known as Serenity Chasma, is shown here at the 12 o’clock position.
Although these views show how the worlds turn over the course of their entire day, they don’t show the entire surface of either celestial body. New Horizons made its closest approach north of Pluto’s equator, which means a fair stretch of the southern hemisphere went unseen.