WGS-7 rides up on Delta IV, and Pluto’s nightside is STUNNING!

First off, I promised video of yesterday’s picturesque evening Delta IV launch of the WGS-7 military commsat.  ULA certainly knows how to “punch up” their launch highlights videos:

But as awesome as a rocket launch is, this blows it away.  Pluto, seen from behind, as New Horizons departed the Pluto system:

nh-pluto-haze-full

Yes, that’s Pluto’s atmosphere.  It’s a lot bigger than most folks had expected, which certainly explains why there was so much difficulty working out its actual size.

There was a whole mass of incredible Pluto images released today by the New Horizon’s team, but the one above is the one that got me right in the feels.  Pluto!  Has an atmosphere!  A big one!  Not just a “technically atmosphere” — a real atmosphere!  (Mind you, that’s still probably more like Mars than here.)  Makes you wonder what’s feeding it.

I’ll close with this natural-color image of Pluto, with the heart (Tombaugh Regio) prominently visible.  You can also make out more craters now, and other interesting textures and features that really make you wonder what’s going on under the skin of Pluto.  It’s amazing.  This is a composite of images from LORRI and data from Ralph, the spectrometer, to give it color.

01_Stern_02a_Pluto_Nat_Color

 

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