This painting marks a point in time, when for the first time, a spacecraft sent from Earth traveled all the way to Pluto and the Kuiper belt.
That text, along with some other cool facts that were looked over and recommended by my science adviser on this project, The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait are included on this piece about the New Horizons Spacecraft.
This is an exciting time to be alive and witnessing space exploration!
I am interested to see if the way I imagined Pluto and Charon are anything at all like the actual images we begin to see in the coming weeks. Usually science is stranger- and more interesting than fiction, so I’m doubting my imagination will match up at all- but it was really fun to guess based on the very limited info we had as of the date of completion of the painting. That date of completion by the way is, April 21st, 2015.When I painted this there were no clear photos of Pluto or Charon so I just guessed as I painted.
After New Horizons does it’s flyby of Pluto it will also image Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Charon is almost half the size of Pluto. That is pretty big! Because of this, Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary planet system.
Charon was discovered in 1978 by James Christy, 48 years after the discovery of Pluto. The moon was named in part to honor James’ wife who was named, Charlene.
The actual flyby by New Horizons with be July 14th, 2015. The closest the spacecraft will be is on that date around noon utc when it will be 12,500 km from the surface. At that time the spacecraft will traveling approximately 14k per second! Wow.
If you look you can find some other fun facts about Pluto and the New Horizons Spacecraft on the painting.
I hope this project inspires you to learn more about this mission and space exploration in general. Feel free to share this image (with attribution please) with anyone who might like to learn a little bit about New Horizons and follow this and other missions on the NASA website.
If you would like to support me as I work to create more educational science inspired paintings, please consider supporting me for as little as $1 a month on my Patreon.
I will begin updates on my patron only activity feed about my project for next month soon. The theme will be chemistry and I will be working with Dr Ray Burks as my science adviser for that project.
Yay science and art!