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Sci-Tech

Experience New Horizons' Pluto flyby in action-packed video

A space-graphics artist takes New Horizons' collection of Pluto still images and turns them into a sweeping animated video that zips through space.

New Horizons' see Pluto's heart. NASA/APL/SwRI

Space fans got the thrill of the year by following NASA's extensive coverage of the New Horizons mission flyby of dwarf-planet Pluto, an epic journey over nine years in the making that saw the spacecraft's closest approach on July 14.

We pored over increasingly clearer pictures showing Pluto's heart, odd dark spots and moons. It was a story told in still images.

Now, space fan and graphics whiz Björn Jónsson has taken NASA's collection of flyby photos and strung them together into a video animation that gives a thrilling spacecraft's-eye view of the approach and pass of Pluto.

This is more than just a series of images put together like a flip book. Jónsson put some artistic thought into the work along with some educated guesses about how a video would look from New Horizons' view if the probe had the capability to film its flyby.

Jónsson offers an explanation of what we see in the video, which posted August 13: "Pluto's atmosphere is included and should be fairly realistic from about 10 seconds into the animation and to the end. Earlier [in the video] it is largely just guesswork that can be improved in the future once all data has been downlinked from the spacecraft. Light from Pluto's satellite Charon illuminates Pluto's night side but is exaggerated here, in reality it would be only barely visible or not visible at all."

Crank up the video to full screen, dim the lights and enjoy the sensation of a close encounter with another world. It's dramatic and immediate, and it takes only 16 seconds to lend a new perspective to a mission that many of us followed so closely.