What would landing on the dwarf planet Pluto look like? In real life, it might not even look much like landing on Earth’s Moon. The gravity is so low that you could probably hit escape velocity by going for a slam-dunk during a basketball game. It’s not even that wide of a target, so it would be easy to miss if calculations for a journey from Earth to Pluto are off by even a tiny fraction of a percent.
However, by taking some black-and-white photos and overlaying some true-life color, scientists have created footage that shows what it might look like to approach Pluto from a distance that shows both the dwarf planet and its largest moon, Charon. Then it zooms in for a virtual “landing” on Sputnik Planitia, an ice-colored region that is part of Pluto’s famous “heart.”
Made Possible By New Horizons
In July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft gave us our first clear images of Pluto. This dwarf planet is so small and so far away that even the best telescopes on Earth’s surface or in orbit could only give us low-resolution images like the one at left. The now-famous “Heart” on Mars simply was not visible through even our best telescopes. Once New Horizons started sending back raw data, the New Horizons team began assembling that data into files that included higher resolution images. These photographs revealed a complex world with interesting surface features.
To accomplish this, New Horizons traveled for 9.5 years to zoom within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Combining powerful telescopes and cameras capable of capturing images of features smaller than a football field, the probe sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and Charon. It captured so much data that it took sixteen months for the probe to transmit all of it back to Earth.
Video Is Accumulating Views
The images from the New Horizon probe made this new video from the NASA team possible. At the time of writing, the video titled “A Colorful ‘Landing’ on Pluto” has been viewed almost 856,000 times since NASA uploaded it on January 19, 2017. Will it go viral? Well, we can sure try to get it there.