NASA says some restoration work on space footage from a 1989 mission by the Voyager 2 planetary probe has revealed the best look yet at Neptune's moon Triton.
The footage was captured as the spacecraft made a flyby past Neptune and Triton on August 15, 1989, the only time a probe has ever voyaged to and through the Neptune system.
Working with color filters on the footage, Paul Schenk at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston has created a stunning map of Triton, and has also stitched images together to create a one-minute movie of the historic flyby.
"In the intervening quarter century and its many discoveries, I think we have tended to forget how strange and exotic Triton really is!" Schenk wrote in a blog post.
While the colors in the images and movie were enhanced to improve their contrast, the result is a good approximation of Triton's true colors, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said on its website.
Schenk's map has been released as another NASA spacecraft, New Horizons, is preparing to make a similar flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto and its known moons.
Pluto and Triton are close in size and are thought to be similar in composition, both with thin atmospheres of nitrogen and surfaces covered in frozen gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.
Triton and Pluto both formed in the outer solar system but Triton was at some point captured by Neptune, and the planet's gravity has caused tidal heating of Triton's interior, resulting in geological features like volcanoes and fractures spotted by Voyager 2.
Voyager also spotted plumes of gases rising above Triton, making it one of the few active bodies known in the outer solar system, along with single moons of Jupiter and Saturn, Io and Enceladus respectively.
"Although a fast flyby, New Horizons' Pluto encounter on July 14, 2015, will not be a replay of Voyager but more of a sequel and a reboot, with a new and more technologically advanced spacecraft and, more importantly, a new cast of characters," JPL said on its website. "Those characters are Pluto and its family of five known moons, all of which will be seen up close for the first time next summer."
On its way to Pluto, New Horizons will cross the orbit of Neptune on August 25, JPL said.
Voyager 2 and its twin Voyager 1 were both launched in 1977 on mission to the outer solar systems, offering some of our first and best looks at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.