First Color Image of the Pluto/Charon System


NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto released this image yesterday of planet Pluto and it’s satellite Charon. The distance between the imaging spacecraft and the two objects was about 71 million miles when this photo was taken.

At first glance, the colors appear to be quite close to those depicted in space artist Dan Durda’s 2001 illustration (commissioned by NASA) of the planetary system panorama seen here. The reddish color of Pluto is brighter than its grayish companion. Click on the image to enlarge.

New Horizons at Pluto

NASA Press Release:

First Pluto-Charon Color Image from New Horizons

This image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on April 9 and downlinked to Earth the following day. It is the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. The image is a preliminary reconstruction, which will be refined later by the New Horizons science team. Clearly visible are both Pluto and the Texas-sized Charon. The image was made from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)—roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus. At this distance, neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved by the color imager, but their distinctly different appearances can be seen. As New Horizons approaches its flyby of Pluto on July 14, it will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.

Some of us have been waiting for fifteen years to see the images from New Horizons. We’re looking forward to seeing more as the spacecraft looms closer.