SGU Science Picture Of The Week: Hi Res Pluto
Mars isn’t the only big astronomy news grabbing headlines this past week. Pluto still has much to offer the science news cycle like this stunning highest Resolution image of the dwarf planet to date.
Despite the fact that the New Horizons craft passed Pluto last July, it still has many months of slow uploading of its data to do over its agonizingly slow dish antennas. Remember how lame those old 14.4 modems were? These are worse. The wait will be worth it though if there’s more images like this on its Horizons hard-drive.
This picture is the handiwork of planetary astronomer Alex Parker who used New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera. This isn’t one image though, it’s a combination of three, each through a different filter; namely Red, Blue, and Infrared. That means that this is quite a bit more interesting visually than if you donned a spacesuit and had superman fly you there in a jiffy to see it with your own eyes. Imagine actually going to Pluto, looking at it and broadcasting these historic works back to earth….”Umm, I thought it looked cooler than that”
I get that color-enhanced imaging is pervasive in science because it brings out critical details and structures and subtle color differences. It’s an invaluable tool and it also happens to create stunning images that you immediately want to use as your desktop wallpaper. However, when I see and image like this and then discover that it’s color enhanced, I can’t help but feel a pang of annoyance because that’s not how it would really look to us. It wouldn’t matter as much to me if it were instead a color enhanced bacterium or endoplasmic reticulum. Something huge and wonderful and astronomical like a dwarf planet though just seems different. Any who…
Maybe I’ll just make sure to upgrade my eyes to be sensitive to infrared light before I go there.
Here’s a huge version of the same picture of Pluto in all it’s color-enhanced glory
Image Credit: Nasa (Duh)