The first color “movies” of Pluto as seen by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal the sheer strangeness of the orbital dance between the dwarf planet and its largest moon Charon.
In a new animation of color photos of Pluto taken by New Horizons, the dwarf planet and its big moon can be seen orbiting a central point, rather than Charon simply orbiting Pluto itself. The odd arrangement is what scientists call a “double planet,” NASA officials wrote in a video description.
“It’s exciting to see Pluto and Charon in motion and in color,” Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. “Even at this low resolution, we can see that Pluto and Charon have different colors — Pluto is beige-orange, while Charon is grey. Exactly why they are so different is the subject of debate.”