More Postcards from Pluto

(Image courtesy NASA)

(Image courtesy NASA)


As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft closes in on Pluto, fresh details are emerging about the dwarf planet and its neighborhood. Added to the list is a new photo — snapped by New Horizons on Wednesday — which shows Pluto and its mysterious moon Charon together.

Although both icy worlds are believed to have been shaped by the same cosmic collision billions of years ago, they have unique characteristics that make them appear more like strangers than siblings, astronomers say. New Horizons captured the latest photo when it was about 3.7 million miles from Pluto and Charon.

“These two objects have been together for billions of years, in the same orbit, but they are totally different,” Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement.

While Pluto’s surface is covered with bright and dark features, Charon is mostly covered with a uniform light-gray terrain with only a single dark region at one of its poles. The image also shows reddish materials that color Pluto, but not on Charon.

This is the best solar system porn since the Voyager 1’s Jupiter flyby in 1979. 36 years ago, but I remember it all, pouring over every picture in National Geographic Kids magazine.