Hello, Pluto!

Images obtained by OSIRIS, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, show dwarf planet Pluto shortly before the flyby of NASA’s New Horizons. 

After careful image processing dwarf planet Pluto shows itself in these images obtained by Rosetta’s scientific imaging system OSIRIS on 12 July 2015. Left: The unprocessed image is obscured by dust grains in comet 67P’s coma. Middle: Pluto’s background of stars as seen from Rosetta. Right: The processed image shows Pluto as a bright spot within the blue circle. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

After careful image processing dwarf planet Pluto shows itself in these images obtained by Rosetta’s scientific imaging system OSIRIS on 12 July 2015. Left: The unprocessed image is obscured by dust grains in Comet 67P/C-G’s coma. Middle: Pluto’s background of stars as seen from Rosetta. Right: The processed image shows Pluto as a bright spot within the blue circle.
Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

On Sunday 12 July 2015, OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board ESA’s spacecraft Rosetta, took a glance away from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to the edge of our Solar System, towards Pluto.

Over five billion kilometres away, an exposure time of more than three hours, and sophisticated image processing, was necessary to detect Pluto in the images. Twenty images, each exposed for ten minutes, had to be stacked and carefully processed to reveal the tiny world. Pluto is thus the most distant body within the Solar System that Rosetta has ever looked at.

NASA’s space probe New Horizons made its historic flyby of this distant world today, passing within about 12500 km.

Being able to discern the 2370 km-wide body in OSIRIS images comes close to a small miracle, say the imaging team. “After all, OSIRIS is not a telescope, but a camera system designed to study Rosetta’s comet from up close,” says OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany.

“Apart from the huge distance there was another difficulty,” says OSIRIS team member Dennis Bodewits from the University of Maryland who worked on the images. “Comet 67P and Rosetta are by now surrounded by a dense atmosphere of gas and dust. It’s like watching Pluto through a blizzard.”

The observation is particularly symbolic given that both Pluto and Comet 67P/C-G hail from the Kuiper Belt in the Outer Solar System. Comet 67P/C-G is now a Jupiter Family Comet and is currently in the inner Solar System, a month away from perihelion, the closest point to the Sun along its orbit. Pluto is a dwarf planet residing in the Kuiper Belt, and has an elliptical orbit around the Sun.

Rosetta has imaged a number of Solar System objects on en route to Comet 67P/C-G: Earth, Mars and the asteroids Steins and Lutetia during flybys, along with the more distant comet 9P/Tempel 1, asteroid P/2010 A2, and Saturn. “As in the case of Pluto, in comparison to observations from Earth such images often offer a unique and instructive viewing perspective,” says Sierks.

The Rosetta mission team sends its best wishes to the New Horizons team on today’s historic flyby!

About Rosetta
Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.

About OSIRIS
The scientific imaging system OSIRIS was built by a consortium led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) in collaboration with CISAS, University of Padova (Italy), the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (France), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucia, CSIC (Spain), the Scientific Support Office of the European Space Agency (The Netherlands), the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (Spain), the Universidad Politéchnica de Madrid (Spain), the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Uppsala University (Sweden), and the Institute of Computer and Network Engineering of the TU Braunschweig (Germany). OSIRIS was financially supported by the national funding agencies of Germany (DLR), France (CNES), Italy (ASI), Spain (MEC), and Sweden (SNSB) and the ESA Technical Directorate.

 

 

 

Comments

11 Comments

  • masanori says:

    The biggest difference between Rosetta mission & New Horizons mission in such historic moment looked to me like: Whether use national flag as one of the main tools to celebrate the moment or not.

    I have always been wondering whether you really need national flag or not when going outside of Earth where there should be no borders.

    In today’s case, for example, is national flag necessary??

    How about international collaborators on New Horizons mission?? Should they celebrate under US flag?? Don’t you respect them equally as you respect team members who are Americans?? Mmmmm…..

    I don’t support or celebrate any space mission that way, including my country’s.

  • Mesut says:

    Good for you, but we prefer P 67 photos!.

  • johan van ham says:

    It is a miracle indeed. What a painstaking work has been done so far by all Rosetta and New horizon teams to provide us a first row seat, comfortable with laptop, Tablet or Smartphone at hand. And still the best has to be to come. Thank You all very very much.
    Johan

  • Cesare Guaita says:

    At least an OSIRIS pictures released in real time and
    not after years !

  • Gerald says:

    New Horizons recorded expected amount of data during Pluto flyby! Spacecraft is healthy.

    Downlink of recorded data is expected to take more than 1 year.

    With Rosetta, Dawn and New Horizons we can now follow three first encounters with formerly largely unknown celestial objects in parallel.
    A rather singular instant in space exploration!

    Congratulations to NASA, Alan Stern and the whole New Horizons team for this huge accomplishment!

  • Herobrine says:

    Emily,
    The first block of 67P science data from all of the instrument teams was due in to ESA no later than 19 May 2015, to be deposited in PSA soon (about a week) afterward. It is now 57 days (about 16% of a year) later and no (0) science data has made it into the PSA
    Emily, have none of the instrument teams fulfilled their obligation to ESA and to the citizen taxpayers of its member states in terms of science data release, or is ESA having trouble getting the data into PSA? Or is there some confusion as to when that data is actually required to be delivered to ESA?.

    The OSIRIS team seems to be having fun pointing their instrument at Pluto and seems to have plenty of time to release that imagery, so I have to wonder why, 57 days after the first block of 67P science data was due in to ESA, we still see nothing in the PSA.

  • Dieter Meinert says:

    Congratulations to this marvellous idea.

  • tientran says:

    Thank you both Rosetta team and New Horizon team. Every night when my 5 year old daughter Kenadee prays, she always asks God to send the devil as far as Pluto so she would not have a nightmare. After looking at Pluto’s recent pics, she’s happy God sent him much farther.

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