Yesterday, as the New Horizons spacecraft rocketed past Pluto on its closest approach, NASA posted the best image of the dwarf planet yet. Where? On Instagram.
In the almost decade since New Horizons left Earth, a lot has changed. Its destination, for example, was still our ninth planet (no more, of course). Facebook was a toddler. And Twitter, Instagram, and smartphones (as we know them today) didn’t exist.
Although the spacecraft’s technology itself is getting a little long in tooth, back here on the ground, things have advanced at a very fast pace. Not long after New Horizons snapped its iconic image three billion (very chilly and lonely) miles from Earth—it was transmitted to smartphones around the globe via Instagram (even before it was posted on NASA.gov).
And then, of course, it made the rounds on other social networks and the web.
If telescopes and spacecraft like New Horizons extend humankind’s vision beyond our biological limits into the space, smartphones and the Internet widely distribute the viewfinder. Many of those who first saw Pluto yesterday weren’t gathered around TV sets or gazing at scrolling tickers in Times Square—they were in bed or on the train or at a desk, glancing at Pluto in high-def, sandwiched in between selfies of friends.
That’s more than a little surreal.
In any case, it’s big news, and we’d be remiss not pay tribute. Find some of our favorite images so far below, and come on back a little later. We’ll post the best images of the flyby (which by all accounts went as planned) when NASA releases them later today.
[UPDATE] NASA released two new images taken by New Horizons on its Pluto flyby (see below) and a GIF montage on Instagram of our evolving view of Pluto—from the very earliest images to today's most detailed pics. (Go here for more information on today's release.)
NASA's Evolving Views of Pluto NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew within 8,000 miles of dwarf planet Pluto on 14 July 2015. Our view of this cold, previously unexplored world, 4.67 billion miles from Earth, has evolved since its discovery by Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930. This short clip shows images from Tombaugh, Hubble and New Horizons over the years, arranged to illustrate improvements in resolution. The final close-up image pf Pluto’s surface was taken about 1.5 hours before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 478,000 miles (770,000 kilometers) from the surface of the planet. The image easily resolves structures smaller than a mile across. Credit: NASA/Goddard #PlutoFlyby #nasagoddard #Pluto
Image Credit: NASA