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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Pluto: Looking Sharp

By Phil Plait

Last week, I (and everyone else) was wowed by new images from the New Horizons probe, which could see surface features on Pluto even though it was sill more than 100 million kilometers from its goal.

There was a press release about them before the images were revealed, and that had me scratching my head. I knew that from that distance, Pluto would only be a few pixels across. What could they have seen? Because Pluto would be so small, my first guess was they discovered a new moon.

But it turns out that Pluto looked far bigger in the images than I expected; 10 pixels across instead of just over four. How was that possible?

It was due to two things: superresolution and deconvolution. I wrote up an explanation of these techniques for my biweekly column on Note: The blog is subscription only, but with that you get access to a ton of other blogs. Also note that all the news, images, and videos are free.

I have a public talk I just put together on Pluto and New Horizons, and I already have to update it. I guess I’d better get used to that between now and close encounter on July 14! And probably for months after, too …

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