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Observatory's new equipment captures Pluto

The Goldendale Sentinel of Goldendale, Washington

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Pluto is finally getting its due.

After years as the ugly stepchild of the "real" planets — in 2003 it was downgraded from its initial classification as a planet to a "dwarf planet," given that its scant 1,400 miles of width makes it smaller than Earth's moon — the farthest of the planetary bodies in our solar system is getting tons of attention.

Tuesday morning NASA's New Horizons probe swept near Pluto, after nine years on the "road," sending back the first relatively up-close images of the orb.

The occasion did not go unnoticed at the Goldendale Observatory State Park. Tuesday morning the Observatory's interpretive specialist, Troy Carpenter, sent his own picture of the night sky, highlighting Pluto. Here is what Carpenter had to say about it:

"The New Horizons probe reached Pluto at 4:50 a.m. PDT, marking humanity's first visit to the Kuiper Belt.

"In honor of the history that was made this morning, we decided to take our first picture of Pluto while the New Horizons probe was still about two and a half hours out. You don't realize how dim 14th magnitude is until you attempt to capture it — Pluto is the incredibly tiny speck indicated by the red arrow, only 2.9 billion miles away. This light took four and a half hours to reach Earth, as will the anticipate data from New Horizons. All the stars in this image are within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius.

"Worthy of note: I took this using our new Lunt 152 Solar Telescope (with the solar filters removed), one of the Phase II capital upgrades [being used to recondition existing or provide new equipment for the facility].

"Photographic information: 152mm f/6 Achromatic Refractor; Sony SLT-A99 at 15 seconds, ISO 4000."

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Original Publication Date: July 15, 2015

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