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Feel like you’re zooming over Pluto and its moon Charon with NASA’s new 3D animations

Feel like you’re zooming over Pluto and its moon Charon with NASA’s new 3D animations


Take yourself back to the Pluto system

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It was two years ago, on July 14th, 2015, that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto — marking the first time we had ever explored this mysterious small world. The probe whizzed by within 7,750 miles of the dwarf planet’s surface and snapped the first ever close-up images of Pluto and its weird moons. Now, New Horizons is way beyond Pluto, journeying to another object at edge of the Solar System. But you can relive the flyby with this new animation from NASA that takes you over Pluto’s unique terrain.

Members of the New Horizons mission team put together the animation using data collected by the spacecraft, as well as elevation models of Pluto’s surface. The video starts just southwest of Sputnik Planitia — the huge plains of nitrogen ice that form part of Pluto’s signature giant heart. It then passes over numerous other locations, showcasing the various mountain ranges, basins, and fractured landscape of Pluto’s surface. The elevations have been exaggerated a bit, too, just to illustrate just how dynamic the geography is. But the result is a captivating view of this complex little planet and a reminder of just how much the surface changes throughout.

It’s not just Pluto that got the animated flyover treatment: the New Horizons team made a companion video for Pluto’s largest moon Charon. About half the size of Pluto, Charon is a complicated place all on its own, covered in mountains and craters, and sporting a large red spot on its surface.

The videos offer an intimate look at the worlds we visited two years ago. So if you’re nostalgic for the summer of 2015, these videos will bring you right back to the Pluto system and make you feel like you’re also an interplanetary spacecraft.