Pluto, everyone’s favorite thing in the solar system that’s not a planet, has been caught on camera in what NASA calls “the complex orbital dance of the two bodies” along with moon and cosmic tango partner Charon.
The animation was created from NASA’s New Horizons space probe — it’s the first time “near-color” movies of the double planet system has been caught on camera. “Even at this low resolution, we can see that Pluto and Charon have different colors—Pluto is beige-orange, while Charon is grey,” said Alan Stern, a principal astronomer on the mission, in a press release. “Exactly why they are so different is the subject of debate.”
The double planet system describes the orbit of Pluto (which is tiny, at only about 1,470 miles wide), and Charon (which, for a moon, is relatively big — about 12 percent the size of Pluto). The result is a wobbly orbit around a center of gravity which lies not on Pluto but above the dwarf planet’s surface.
The New Horizon spacecraft will get within 8,000 miles of Pluto on July 14, the closest a human-made object has gotten to the spinning pair.