NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has captured some exciting images: the very first pictures of the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon, Charon.
New Horizons snapped the photos April 9 and were released April 14 as the spacecraft nears its arrival as part of the Pluto mission, which is still a three-month journey away, according to media reports.
The spacecraft is now 71 million miles from Earth for its Pluto mission, or about the distance from the Sun to Venus, and NASA hosted a briefing at its Washington, D.C. headquarters to discuss the new findings.
Interestingly, Pluto appears to be a bright red color, and Charon does not look nearly as radiant.
New Horizons will only fly by for the Pluto mission, considered a first step to orbiting and then eventually landing on its surface at some point in the distant future.
New Horizons has traveled a long way: 3.5 billion miles, in fact, over a period of nine years as it makes its way toward Pluto. It has sophisticated instruments that will be used to learn more about the former ninth planet from the sun.
Pluto, which was first discovered in 1930, is the largest object in the Kuiper belt. New Horizons is scheduled to arrive on July 14, the first time a spacecraft will have visited the dwarf planet.