NASA websites get Pluto bump

Nine years ago, Pluto was kicked out of the planet club -- but today the "dwarf planet" on the edge of the solar system was the center of public attention.

While NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was flying by Pluto and its moon Charon, photos of the planet taken during the approach were drawing hundreds of thousands of views on NASA websites and social media.  According to 11 of the top 20 most popular government web pages the morning of July 14 were on NASA sites.

More than 900,000 people were on a government website at 7 a.m. when New Horizons was passing Pluto, according to The Hill. The spacecraft was launched in 2006, and some of the photos taken this morning will be used in determining the true size of Pluto, which now appears to be slightly larger than prior estimates.

The photos shared on July 14 are the sharpest ever seen of Pluto, and the "flyby" imagery is expected to be better still.  Initial pictures should be released on July 15, NASA said, but it will take more than a year to transmit all nine-plus years’ worth of New Horizons data.  

Gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles. This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach, which was at 7:49 a.m. EDT Tuesday - about 7,750 miles above the surface -- roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India - making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface. Images from closest approach are expected to be released on Wednesday, July 15. Image Credit: NASA #nasa #pluto #plutoflyby #newhorizons#solarsystem #nasabeyond #science

A photo posted by NASA (@nasa) on

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Jul 16, 2015 Judith Bailey Ballarat Observatory Australia

The heart shape, Tombaugh Regio is a similar shape to the impact site shape in Tungaska Russia. The heart also has right of centre, faint straight impact lines similar to lines in Tungaska diagrams of the impact.

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