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Pluto and Charon in Natural Color

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Friday, July 24, 2015

Pluto and Charon are shown in a composite of natural-color images from New Horizons. Images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to produce these views, which portray Pluto and Charon as an observer riding on the spacecraft would see them. The images were acquired on July 13 and 14, 2015.

Pluto and Charon are shown in enhanced color in this image, which is the highest-resolution color image of the pair yet returned to Earth by New Horizons. It was taken with the spacecraft’s Ralph instrument about five hours before closest approach to Pluto, from a range of 150,000 miles (250,000 kilometers). The image highlights the contrasting appearance of the two worlds: Charon is mostly gray, -- with a dark reddish polar cap -- while Pluto shows a wide variety of subtle color variations, including yellowish patches on the north polar cap and subtly contrasting colors for the two halves of Pluto’s “heart”, now informally named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), seen in the upper right quadrant of the image.

In order to fit Pluto and Charon in the same frame in their correct relative positions, the image has been rotated so the north poles of both Pluto and Charon are pointing toward the upper left. The image was made with the blue, red, and near-infrared color filters of Ralph’s Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera, and shows colors that are similar, but not identical, to what would be seen with the human eye.

Image Credit: NASA/JUAPL/SwRI

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