NASA probe sends back its first footage of Pluto and its moon in orbit

Contributed by
Aug 13, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT

The New Horizon is still a year away from its arrival at Pluto, but the NASA probe is already sending back some footage and pictures from the distant non-planet.

The probe is set to take some close-up shots of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, on July 14, 2015, but scientists have aimed the telescope at the dwarf planet and have processed some footage showing the two heavenly bodies in orbit. The mini-movie is comprised of 12 images taken from July 19 through July 24 and shows the orbit in action.

As New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern noted, it marks a record for getting a peek at Charon:

“The image sequence showing Charon revolving around Pluto set a record for close-range imaging of Pluto — they were taken from 10 times closer to the planet than the Earth is. But we'll smash that record again and again, starting in January, as approach operations begin … We are really excited to see our target and its biggest satellite in motion from our own perch, less than a year from the historic encounter ahead!”

The probe was approximately 265 million miles from Pluto when it took the clip below:

If the orbit looks to be close, that’s because it is. As Space notes, Charon orbits just 11,200 miles above Pluto’s surface. For the sake of comparison, Earth's moon is an average of 239,000 miles away.

Though the first round of footage admittedly lacks some detail, it should be very exciting to see what New Horizon starts sending back once next year rolls around.

(Via Space)