Peering closely at the “heart of Pluto,” in the western half of what mission scientists have informally named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), New Horizons’ Ralph instrument revealed evidence of carbon monoxide ice. The contours indicate that the concentration of frozen carbon monoxide increases towards the center of the “bull’s eye.” These data were acquired by the spacecraft on July 14 and transmitted to Earth on July 16. Credit: NASA, JHUAPL, SWRI

SpaceNews is reporting this week from New Horizons mission control at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. 

Our special coverage of the July 14 Pluto flyby is sponsored by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

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Meet Ralph, the ‘Disposable’ Camera Finally Bringing Pluto into Sharp Focus

New Horizons’ Ralph camera suite


BOULDER, Colo. — Pluto has been leaving a lot to the imagination since 1930 when a sharp pair of eyes belonging to Clyde Tombaugh spotted the long-rumored ninth planet blinking back at him in a pair of photographs taken a week apart.

Still just barely visible to ground- and space-based telescopes, Pluto has remained a head-scratching orb of obscurity for 85 years.

But that’s about to change.

After a journey of more than nine years and 5 billion kilometers, NASA’s New Horizons probe is beginning to send back eye-catching, full-color images of the far-flung globe.

Credit this time around goes to the sharp set of eyes belonging to Ralph, the small but powerful visible and near infrared multispectral camera suite at the heart of New Horizons.

Pluto, at long last, is about to get its close-up.

Read about how the Ralph team battled schedule, mass and power constraints to help NASA finally put eyes on Pluto.