Back in July 2015, NASA's New Horizons probe completed an historic flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto. Collecting over 50 gigabits of data during the encounter it took more than a year to transmit all the information back to Earth and scientists are still poring through it. The team has just released two spectacular flyover videos, of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, created from the New Horizons data offering us the most intimate look yet at our distant icy friends.
The first video takes us over Pluto, beginning at the Sputnik Planitia, an expanse of nitrogen ice bordering the ominously named terrain of Cthulhu Macula. The flyover shows us a fascinating variety of landscapes from the pits of Pioneer Terra to the sharply bladed contours of Tartarus Dorsa.
The second flyover sends us to Pluto's largest moon Charon. This video offers a thrilling trip over the Serenity Chasma canyon, the Dorothy Gale crater before concluding at the "moated mountains" of Clarke Montes. We also get a look at a compellingly named Mordor Macula and the equatorial plains of Vulcan Planum.
As well as introducing the world to some fascinatingly named geographical formations (noted by NASA to be still informal), the flyover is an exciting way to experience what it would be like to float over these remote and mysterious worlds.
The digitally rendered videos are color enhanced to highlight certain details, and NASA note the topography is enhanced by a factor of two to three to emphasize the forms of the landscape.
The data from the New Horizons flyby is still being analyzed by NASA scientists and two incredibly detailed global maps have also just been released showing the complexity of the Pluto system. The data may be two years-old but it still offers scientists a multitude of treasures to discover.
"Everywhere we turn are new mysteries," says Alan Stern, the principle investigator for New Horizons. "These new maps from the landmark exploration of Pluto by NASA's New Horizons mission in 2015 will help unravel these mysteries and are for everyone to enjoy."