NASA celebrates anniversary of Pluto mission with stunning flyover movie

Carla Harmon
July 17, 2017

This new, detailed global mosaic color map of Pluto is based on a series of three color filter images obtained by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera aboard New Horizons during the NASA spacecraft's close flyby of Pluto in July 2015. The only bummer is there's no audio - I'd recommend Elton John's "Rocket Man" or R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" if you want some soothing, appropriately themed background tunes.

Lasting slightly over one minute, the Charon flyover video begins with a distant view, then comes closer, sweeping over Serenity Chasma, a deep, wide canyon. The probe first captured the images of a dwarf planet in July 2015, giving a new perspective of more that could be found on the icy and rocky planet in the solar system. The spacecraft took nine-and-a-half years to get there.

The model shows off Pluto's icy plains and mountain ranges, showing its remarkable terrain in stunning detail. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right.

As the tour moves north, the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra can be seen before we head over Pioneer Terra and the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa, in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.

"I think the most surprising thing [to come out of New Horizons] is how complex that little planet is", the mission's principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Institute in Colorado, told on the flyby's two-year anniversary.

The flyby by New Horizons - which is now approaching the edge of the galaxy - also revealed that the dwarf planet is slightly larger than scientists originally thought. The spacecraft's mission is set to continue with a look at a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 about 18 months from now.

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