Pluto Showcased in Christmas Spirit with Release of ‘False Color Christmas Portrait’ by NASA

Pluto Showcased in Christmas Spirit with Release of ‘False Color Christmas Portrait’ by NASA

Since the launch of NASA’s New Horizons, extraordinary images of Pluto have been captured by the spacecraft. Since Sunday, New Horizons has imaged the dwarf planet in six different ways and yet a lot surprises are yet to come. Recently, NASA has released stunning images and video showing how the spacecraft can produce vibrant colors from the seemingly drab-looking dwarf planet. The Christmas image is actually the one taken during the closest flybys of the spacecraft in the month of July to Pluto and its Moon Charon.

The holiday themed picture of the dwarf planet was created by spotlighting infrared wavelengths invisible to the human eye. The latest image released by NASA on Thursday, shows Pluto being in the holiday spirit. With the help of a pair of Ralph/LEISA instrument scans obtained from a mean range of 67,000 miles on July 14 and with a resolution of about 7 kilometers per LEISA pixel, scientists created three infrared wavelength ranges in three color channels, red, green and blue. They have been able to create the ‘false color Christmas portrait’ of Pluto.

A team of scientists have been able to produce the brightly colored image with sensors that pick up wavelengths visible to the human eye. The linearly-varying filter of the infrared spectrometer produces a stained glass window effect as it looks for reflected chemicals. The dark bands come when Pluto's methane ice absorbs those materials and it results into festive mix of red, green and little blue color when the results plug into visible color channels. With the help of infrared spectrometer, scientists have also been able to confirm for the existence of water ice on Pluto.

NASA has periodically released new images and analysis of the planet as data has been downloaded and reviewed, including new, more detailed close-up images released at the beginning of December.

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