Losing its “Planet” status in 1992 didn’t stop Pluto from being the most charming part of the Kuiper belt. Ever since its discovery in 1930, people have been fascinated by the dwarf, which eventually even lead NASA to launch their New Horizons space probe. Three billion miles and a 9.5-year voyage later, the spacecraft entered the Pluto system. During a six-month flyby, New Horizons came within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto, taking hundreds of pictures with powerful on-board telescopic cameras along the way.
Ever wondered what it would be like to actually land on Pluto? NASA already gave a first black and white impression of a Pluto touch down in back in 2016, but only recently released a movie that gives viewers a much more accurate experience of what it’s like to dive into Pluto. To create the movie, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic frames based on what they know Pluto looks like, to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.
The movie starts with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. Pluto orbits smoothly as New Horizons comes closer, and eventually “lands” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named sputnik Planitia. Check it out below:
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute