Here’s How New Horizons’ Pluto Flyby Looked Like

Pluto as seen by New Horizons 1 photo
Photo: NASA
Let us all stop thinking about cars for a second, and imagine how big of a roadtripper we’d be if we were able to travel like NASA’s high-tech probe that recently flew by the dwarf planet. A space enthusiast has put together the Agency’s pictures into a 16-second animation showing what New Horizons saw and it may help with our little project.
To make sure we’re all talking the same language here, we’ll meet New Horizons first. It is an interplanetary space probe resembling a foil-covered grand piano, sizing 27 inches (70 cm) in height, 82 inches (2.1 meters) in length and 108 inches (2.7 meters) in width. The 1,054 lb (478 kg) craft was launched as part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, which is a series of space exploration missions that have the purpose of researching several planets from our Solar System including Jupiter, Venus, and the dwarf planet Pluto. How cool is that, right?

Fast forward to present times, and here we are, talking about Pluto in a new vision. That is, because the mission was successful, as on July 14, it flew 12,500 km (7,800 miles) above the surface of Pluto, making it the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet. Thirteen hours later, NASA received the first communication from the probe following a flyby at the time expected.

Sure, all these sound marvelous for the future of space exploration and for mankind alike, but we know adding a little bit of visual to it will make a massive difference in its impact. That is probably why fellow Bjorn Jonsson figured he could stick all the pictures into this cool video. Here’s how he details it:

Pluto's atmosphere is included and should be fairly realistic from about 10 seconds into the animation and to the end. Earlier it is largely just guesswork that can be improved in the future once all data has been downlinked from the spacecraft. Light from Pluto's satellite Charon illuminates Pluto's night side but is exaggerated here, in reality it would be only barely visible or not visible at all. The field of view is 12.5 degrees.”

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