Pluto has been revealed in stunning new images recorded by the New Horizons spacecraft during its closest approach to the dwarf planet in 2015. These photographs are the most-detailed images many people are likely to see in their lifetime.

New Horizons was launched back to Pluto when that body was still considered to be the ninth planet. Currently, NASA has no firm plans to send another spacecraft to Pluto and its five moons. Without new observatories headed to this frozen body, it is unlikely to record better images of the surface of Pluto for a period of years or decades, some researchers contend.

This new composite image was recorded as a strip, covering the fascinating Pluto's hemisphere facing New Horizons during their historic encounter. Raw images were photographed just 23 minutes prior to the observatory's rendezvous with that frigid body.

A wide variety of terrains are visible on the strip, revealing the diverse nature of Pluto's surface. The mosaic, developed from all of the most-detailed images recorded by New Horizons, may also be viewed in the form of a movie that was created by mission managers.

"Starting with hummocky, cratered uplands at top, the view crosses over parallel ridges of the 'washboard' terrain; chaotic and angular mountain ranges; the craterless, cellular plains; coarsely 'pitted' areas of sublimating nitrogen ice; zones of thin nitrogen ice draped over the topography below; and rugged, dark, mountainous highlands scarred by deep pits," Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reports.

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) instrument on board New Horizons was utilized to capture the raw images seen in the finished product. The detail in the mosaic is about 260 feet per pixel. The mosaic stretches 55 miles across at the top of the image, photographing the upper limb of the body. This narrows down to 45 miles at the bottom of the photograph, showing where day turned to night at the time New Horizons passed by, at a distance of 9,850 miles.

The perspective of the spacecraft changed as the images were being recorded, an effect which may be seen in the mosaic. Near the top, New Horizons is looking at the craters of Pluto at a significant angle. Flying over regions in the southeast, near the bottom of the photograph, craters are seen from high above.

Space enthusiasts should enjoy this image of Pluto, because it may be the best view of the dwarf planet most people alive today will ever see.

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