Pluto lovers rejoice! New Hi-Res Pluto Data From New Horizons

Hi-res mosaic of pluto. Click to see full resolution copy.
Raw data: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
Mosaic: Stellar Aperture

Pluto lovers rejoice!  Today the NASA New Horizons team released a new set of high resolution images of the surface of Pluto from the LORRI instrument on-board the New Horizons spacecraft.  The images are truly breathtaking.  The team announced the results over a Google Hangout earlier today.  During the hangout Alan Stern, director of the New Horizons mission, said that this marks the start of a data down-link phase which should last about a year.  Over the course of the year we will learn more and more about Pluto and its system of moons.

As I watched the live hangout, new images kept posting to their website.  Each time I created a mosaic, I noticed more data on the page.  It was a lot of fun trying to keep up to work with the data as it was posted in real time.

I for one will be very excited to see the data from the Alice instrument, which is an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer.  A very similar instrument is currently flying on the Rosetta spacecraft currently orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.  Comet 67P is thought to have originated in the Kuiper Belt, the same region of the solar system where Pluto resides.  I will be very interested to see how the UV data from Pluto compare to that of 67P.  This should tell us a great deal about the origin and evolution of our solar system.

Check out the hangout for the full scoop.  It’s definitely worth a watch.  I’ve embedded the video below.