The NASA spacecraft is approaching an epic circumnavigation of Pluto on July 14th and taking the first good photos of two satellites of the dwarf planet.
The probe New Horizons made images of Nyqta and Hydra, two of the five known satellites of Pluto, between January 27 and February 8, ranging from 125 million kilometers to 115 million kilometers from the final target. Photos were combined to create a short Nixa and Hydra motion animation.
NASA published new photographs on Wednesday (February 18), 85 years after US astronomer Clyde Tombo discovered Pluto at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“This exciting video allows you to observe the details of Pluto’s system as it meets the spacecraft on July 14,” said New Scenes research team John Spencer of the Southwestern Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "This is the first good image of Nyx and Hydra marks another important stage and the perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of Pluto."
New members of the New Horizons team discovered Nikta and Hydra in 2005 using the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists believe that both satellites are from 25 to 95 miles wide (40 - 153 km). Mission New Horizons should clarify their size when they pass through the Pluto system this summer.
The first images of the Pluto system, made by LORRI camera Hydra is the outer satellite of Pluto and makes one complete revolution around the dwarf planet for 38 days, at a distance of about 40,200 miles (64,700 km). Nyx lies at a distance of 30,260 miles (48,700 km) from Pluto, and its orbit is 25 days.
Pluto’s other two satellites, Styx and Kerber, are smaller than Nyx and Hydra and too small to be found on the latest images of the New Horizons mission. Another known satellite of the dwarf planet Charon, in the photo, is mixed with Pluto and creates a fuzzy white drop. Charon is about 750 miles or 1207 km in diameter.
The photos above were taken with a camera called “LORRI”. The right image was processed to remove the glare of the Pluto-Charon system and distant stars and to better see the satellites of Nix and Hydra.
The band to the right of Pluto-Charon is a defect. The camera took a photo in a special mode that donates permission to increase sensitivity.
A mission worth $ 700 million was launched in January 2006 to explore mysterious Pluto. New Horizons will pass at a distance of 8500 miles (13600 km) above the surface of the dwarf planet.
This long-awaited flight may not mean the end of the mission. Members of the mission team want to send New Horizons to study the second largest object in the Kuiper belt, the ring of ice objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. If NASA finances this expanded mission, the flight will take place in 2019.