Pluto fly-by tonight

The New Horizons spacecraft is due to fly past Pluto tonight at 11:49:57 p.m. New Zealand Time time (7:49 AM Monday, US Eastern Time, Tuesday 14 2015).

Because of very slow transmission rates it is likely to be another day before data and images are received back here on Earth so if all goes well hope for something by Thursday morning.

The last photo of Pluto before preparing for the flyby was taken two days ago, and is the first time contours have been seen.

Pluto photographed in black and white on July 11, 2015

For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Just starting to rotate into view on the left side of the image is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons’ closest approach.

Annotated details:

And there is also a photo of one of Pluto’s four known moons.

Charon’s Chasms and Craters

Pluto's moon Charon
Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
Pluto's moon Charon
Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015. The annotated version includes a diagram showing Charon’s north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

New Horizons’ newest images reveal Pluto’s largest moon Charon to be a world of chasms and craters. The most pronounced chasm, which lies in the southern hemisphere, is longer and miles deeper than Earth’s Grand Canyon, according to William McKinnon, deputy lead scientist with New Horizon’s Geology and Geophysics investigation team.

“This is the first clear evidence of faulting and surface disruption on Charon,” says McKinnon, who is based at the Washington University in St. Louis. “New Horizons has transformed our view of this distant moon from a nearly featureless ball of ice to a world displaying all kinds of geologic activity.”

The most prominent crater, which lies near the equator of Charon in an image taken July 11 and radioed to Earth today, is about 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) across. The brightness of the rays of material blasted out of the crater suggest it formed relatively recently in geologic terms, during a collision with a small Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) some time in the last billion years.

Follow the path of the spacecraft in coming days in real time with a visualization of the actual trajectory data, using NASA’s online Eyes on Pluto.

Stay in touch with the New Horizons mission with #PlutoFlyby and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/new.horizons1