Pluto’s Closeup Will Be Awesome Based On Jupiter Pics From New Horizons Spacecraft

New Horizons, you gotta wake up this weekend. There’s so much work ahead of you when you reach Pluto next year! The spacecraft has been sleeping quietly for weeks in its last great hibernation before the dwarf planet close encounter in July. On Saturday (Dec. 6), the NASA craft will open its eyes and begin preparations for that flyby.

How cool will those closeups of Pluto and its moons look? A hint comes from a swing New Horizons took by Jupiter in 2007 en route. It caught a huge volcanic plume erupting off of the moon Io, picked up new details in Jupiter’s atmosphere and gave scientists a close-up of a mysterious “Little Red Spot.” Get a taste of the fun seven years ago in the gallery below.

An eruption from the Tvashtar volcano on Io, Jupiter’s moon, in several different wavelength images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2007. The left image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) shows lava glowing in the night. At top right, the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) spotted sulfur and sulfor dioxide deposits on the sunny side of Io. The remaining image from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) shows volcanic hotspots on Io’s surface. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Jupiter’s “Little Red Spot” seen by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2007. The spot turned red in 2005 for reasons scientists were then unsure of, but speculated it could be due to stuff from inside the atmosphere being stirred up by a storm surge. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
A “family portrait” of the four Galilean satellites around Jupiter taken by the New Horizons spacecraft and released in 2007. From left, the montage includes Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
A composite of Jupiter’s bands (and atmospheric structures) taken in several images by the New Horizons Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera, showing differences due to sunlight and wind. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
In February and March 2007, a huge plume erupted from the Tvashtar volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io. The image sequence taken by New Horizons showed the largest such explosion then viewed by a spacecraft — even accounting for the Galileo spacecraft that examined Io between 1996 and 2001. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
The New Horizons flyby of Io in 2007 (right) revealed a changing feature on the surface of the Jupiter moon since Galileo’s image of 1999 (left.) Inside the circle, a new volcanic eruption spewed material; other pictures showed this region was still active. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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