Wednesday 28 September 2016

Pluto and Charon close-ups bring surprise for Nasa scientists

Published 15/07/2015 | 03:41

Mission team members hold a print of a US stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto (Nasa/AP)
Mission team members hold a print of a US stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Pluto (Nasa/AP)
Photo issued by Nasa of the dwarf planet Pluto, captured from New Horizons (Nasa/PA)

Scientists have released the first up-close images ever of Pluto and its big moon Charon. And they say they arre amazed.

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The long-awaited images were unveiled today in Maryland, home to mission operations for Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft.

A zoom-in of Pluto reveals an icy mountain range about as high as the Rockies. To the scientists' great surprise, there are no impact craters. On Charon, deep troughs and canyons can be seen.

The images were collected as New Horizons swept within 7,700 miles (12,400km) of Pluto yesterday, becoming Pluto's first visitor in its 4.5 billion-year existence.

Scientists did not know until last night - when the spacecraft phoned home - that the encounter was a success.

New Horizons already is 1 million miles (1.6 million km) beyond the dwarf planet, and 3 billion miles (4.8 million km) from Earth.

Press Association

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