Pluto
72 Pluto+Charon.jpg

72 Pluto+Charon.jpg

When Hardy painted Pluto for 'Challenge of the Stars' in 1972 it was not known that Pluto (then a planet too!) had not only a large moon, Charon, but several much smaller ones. As this image has always been rather popular he decided to update it, digitally, as above. (The original version is also available.)

Pluto & Charon

Pluto & Charon

Pluto and Charon. Charon is bluer than Pluto and appears grey, while the surface of Pluto is reddish, so the two are of different composition. Pluto is the only 'planet' to rotate synchronously with the orbit of its satellite, so that each always sees the same face of the other. From Futures.

Pluto & Charon 1

Pluto & Charon 1

Pluto, once the outermost planet, is according to some astronomers, not a true planet but a 'dwarf planet'. But it and its relatively large moon Charon, form a 'double world', with Charon orbiting almost vertical to the plane of Pluto's orbit. Several other small moons have also been discovered.

Pluto 2

Pluto 2

When Pluto is at perihelion – its closest to the Sun (but still a very long way away it is believed that a thin atmosphere may develop. It is shown here as a thin haze above the horizon, illuminated by the distant but bright Sun. (Gouache/digital)

Pluto & Charon 2015

Pluto & Charon 2015

With the New Horizons spacecraft due to reach Pluto on 14 July 2015, there was much interest in the possibility of sub-surface oceans on Pluto, and even 'cryovolcanism', as shown here

Pluto Diagram

Pluto Diagram

I diagram I painted in 1999 of Pluto. On 14 July 2015 the New Horizons probe showed its colour and several features which look similar, such as crevasses and escarpments!

New Horizons at Pluto 2015

New Horizons at Pluto 2015

My friend, scientist and digital artist Dr Dan Durda, produced a very accurate 3D model of New Horizons, which I combined here with my 1991 painting. The probe revealed 'polygonal structures' in an area called Sputnik Planum – very similar to those seen here – and Charon also has large canyons or crevasses like these!

Pluto & Charon with New Horizons

Pluto & Charon with New Horizons

My friend, scientist and digital artist Dr Dan Durda, produced a very accurate 3D model of New Horizons, which I combined here with my much earlier painting, also in this Gallery. This event actually happened on 14 July 2015.

New Horizon Nearing Pluto

New Horizon Nearing Pluto

My friend, scientist and digital artist Dr Dan Durda, produced a very accurate 3D model of New Horizons, which I combined here with my much earlier 'diagram' painting of Pluto, also in this Gallery.

Pluto+Charon close+NH image.jpg

Pluto+Charon close+NH image.jpg

When the high-res images of Pluto and Charon came in from New Horizons on 15 July 2015, a huge canyon was seen across the lower half of big moon Charon. Rather like this one that I painted in 1991 for Ian Ridpath's 'Book of the Universe', in fact!

Charon 1999 with 2015 image

Charon 1999 with 2015 image

I painted the 'diagram' of Charon in 1999 for a Reader's Digest book (only 2" across). On the right is the image from New Horizons on 14 July 2015.

Charon Object

Charon Object

One of the first close-up images of Charon from New Horizons show a strange depression with a peak in it. This is how Hardy thinks it may look, close-up.

Geyser on Pluto

Geyser on Pluto

In 1989, when I returned from seeing the Voyager fly-by of Neptune and Triton, I painted what I thought the geysers might look like. It appeared on the cover of 'Sky & Telescope' and elsewhere. Now we don't _know_ that there are geysers or cryovolcanoes on Pluto, but they have been postulated. So I have edited the above image, digitally, to show what a geyser field might look like on Pluto. A bit fanciful, perhaps, but we'll see. . .

Officially, Pluto is no longer a planet, but a dwarf planet. It was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at Percival Lowell's observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona (which Hardy has visited), and for many years was the 'ninth planet'. It is now demoted to merely a Kuiper Belt object (see Space Debris), but it has a relatively large moon, Charon, and at least 3 smaller ones.

Text & images copyright © 2015 AstroArt by David A. Hardy. All Rights Reserved.

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