The New Horizons spacecraft of US space agency NASA has sent some of its first stunning images of Pluto as the probe comes more closer in on the dwarf planet.
According to NASA, the images of Pluto were captured when the New Horizons spacecraft was more than 203 million km away from the dwarf plant.
The photos, clicked by New Horizons’ telescopic Long—Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), come on the 109th birth anniversary of scientist Clyde Tombaugh, who made the discovery of the distant icy world in 1930.
“My dad would be thrilled with New Horizons. To actually see the planet that he had discovered, and find out more about it — to get to see the moons of Pluto — he would have been astounded. I am sure it would have meant so much to him if he were still alive today,” said Clyde Tombaugh’s daughter Annette.
The recent images are the first of being acquired during the 2015 approach of the spacecraft to the Pluto system that culminates along with a near flyby of the dwarf planet and its moons on July 14.
LORRI will be capturing hundreds of images of Pluto over the next few months.
New Horizons project scientist Hal Weaver, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel (Maryland), said, “Pluto is finally becoming more than just a pinpoint of light. Pluto will continue to grow larger and larger in the images as New Horizons spacecraft hurtles toward its targets. The new LORRI images also demonstrate that the camera’s performance is unchanged since it was launched more than nine years ago.”
This is NASA’s first humanity trip to Pluto and the scientists are eagerly waiting for exploring more about this mysterious farthest known body of our solar system.
Pluto is the only know planet in our solar system that is yet to be explored. Before New Horizons left our planet Earth for the probe, Pluto enjoyed the planet status and the ninth member in the solar system.
But seven months later, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) stripped Pluto of the planethood tag and put it under the category of dwarf planet. However, it was later called plutoid.
The New Horizons spacecraft worth USD 700 million was blasted off from Cape Canaveral in January 2006. It awoke from its last hibernation in December 2014.
The flight controllers said that they have expended higher energy in the past several weeks in the preparation of the spacecraft for the final and most important leg of its nine-year-old journey.