NASA unveils Pluto mosaics created from thousands of public images

The mosaics represent the global response to its popular “#PlutoTime” social media campaign.

Updated: Oct 21, 2015, 17:27 PM IST
NASA unveils Pluto mosaics created from thousands of public images
Photo credits: NASA/JPL

Washington: The US space agency NASA has unveiled stunning mosaics of Pluto and its largest moon Charon created from thousands of images sent in from people across the world.

The mosaics represent the global response to its popular “#PlutoTime” social media campaign.

The Pluto Time concept and widget was developed by the New Horizons science team so that people could experience the approximate sunlight level on Pluto at noon – which is similar to that of around dawn or dusk on Earth.

Since the Pluto Time campaign was announced in June, NASA received more than 339,000 visits to the Pluto Time widget and almost 7,000 image submissions from across the globe.

Now, thousands of these submissions have been assembled into three beautiful mosaics of Pluto, Charon and a combined image of the two - compiled of photos of not only dim skies on Earth, but also famous landmarks, selfies and family pets.

According to NSA, the files are so large that – at current resolution – they would make an 11 x 11’ print.

“We realized that we could make a web tool that would estimate approximately when the light levels dropped to Pluto levels,” said Alex Parker, New Horizons scientist in a statement.

“We looked up tables of illumination levels during various stages of twilight -- used to determine when streetlights come on and such -- and determined how low the sun would need to be on a clear day to match Pluto. After that is was a matter of doing the math.”

Scientists assembling the mosaics used approximately 1,500 to 2,100 images for each.

“It’s gratifying to see the global response to Pluto Time, which allowed us to imagine what it’s like on Pluto, some three billion miles away,” Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, said in a statement.

“This is a wonderful example of how space exploration and science unite us with a common bond.”

Scientists also used an image of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, in the mosaic. In the mosaic, a photo of Tombaugh alongside his homemade 9-inch telescope could be seen in the region of Pluto’s “heart,” informally named Tombaugh Regio. In fact, NASA highlighted that image in red in the mosaic.