Being an enormous nerd, I’ve been following the New Horizons mission to Pluto since it was launched in 2006. I was in high school. (I used to be a teenager! Can you believe it?) I can’t imagine what it’s been like for the New Horizons team, waiting for nine years, most of that with New Horizons in hibernation, waiting and hoping. But, in spite of July 4th’s technical glitch, good old New Horizons is starting to send back some really cool images of Pluto, its big moon Charon, and its tiny moons Nix, Hydra, Kerebos, and Styx.
I took the liberty of downloading the latest published image from New Horizons’ LORRI camera (as of this writing on July 9th, 2015) . I cut the image up and processed the images of Pluto and Charon separately. I stretched their contrast (so that the brightest pixel in each image is pure white and the darkest pixel is pure black; thanks GIMP!) then applied a small-radius unsharp mask to bring out the details. I then joined the images side-by-side. I haven’t rescaled them, so they’re pixelized. Their relative brightnesses aren’t accurate (Charon’s a lot darker than Pluto), but their relative sizes are. Here you go:
Of course, in the days leading up to New Horizons’ July 14th, 2015 flyby of Pluto, my piddly little enhancements are going to be blown out of the water by real, up-close, high-resolution pictures. And you know what? I don’t mind a bit!