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NASA New Horizons Pluto

Sees Pluto

24 Sep, 2006

A white arrow marks Pluto in this New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) picture taken Sept. 24, 2006. Seen at a distance of about 4.2 billion kilometers (2.6 billion miles) from the spacecraft, Pluto is little more than a faint point of light among a dense field of stars. Mission scientists knew they had Pluto in their sights when LORRI detected an unresolved "point" in Pluto's predicted position, moving at the planet's expected motion across the constellation of Sagittarius near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research InstituteThe Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) takes its first photos of Pluto from 4.2 billion km (2.6 billion miles) away. At this distance Pluto is just a faint point of light among the stars.

Finding Pluto in this dense star field really was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. LORRI passed this test with flying colors, because Pluto’s signal was clearly detected at 30 to 40 times the noise level in the images.