Scientists with NASA’s New Horizons, the first mission to explore the Pluto system, have released a “trippy” looking picture of the planet that is actually a false color image designed to highlight what the space agency referred to as “the many subtle color differences” between the planet’s “distinct regions.”
The original image data used to create the psychedelic rendering of the planet was collected by the New Horizons spacecraft’s Ralph/MVIC color camera back on July 14, 2015. The images were snapped at a distance of 22,000 miles during the spaceship’s close-up flyby of the planet.
New Horizons launched back in January of 2006 and the following day, it reached its closest point to the Moon before continuing on in its journey to explore the dwarf planet formerly known as Pluto, which is now no more than an asteroid number in name (134340) in light of its 2006 reclassification as a dwarf planet.
Back in February of 2007, the spacecraft passed by Jupiter at its closest point before traveling on to another eight plus years to Pluto.
The recently shared false color image of the planet recently by NASA was presented at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Maryland by Will Grundy, a member of the New Horizons’ surface composition team, on November 9.
CNET reports that an area near the point of the heart-shaped feature seen spanning the image from the beige and pink on the left to the bright red on the right is known to be composed of frozen crater-less plains. This frozen region is depicted as a peach-esque yellow strewn with reddish streaks.
The New Horizons team tweeted the picture to their more than 250,000 Twitter followers on November 12 with the caption, “A cornucopia of colo, just in time for #Fall. Check out this psychedelic #Pluto pic from our July 14 #PlutoFlyby.”
— NASA New Horizons (@NASANewHorizons) November 12, 2015
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