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The Camera Behind The New Pluto Photos

The Camera Behind The New Pluto Photos Is Named Ralph The Atlantic


There are three cameras aboard New Horizons.

I talked to Lisa Hardaway, an engineer at Ball Aerospace in Colorado who led technical development of the one called “Ralph.” Ralph captures visible and some infrared light. When you see Pluto looking tan- and sepia-toned in the new, high-resolution photos, you’re looking at data captured by Ralph.

​Since it captures visible light, Ralph is in many ways comparable to the camera found in a phone or fancy DSLR. In conventional camera terms, it’s a 75mm lens at f/8.7. But it was far harder to built than a normal camera. Hardaway says that the team was working under a number of big constraints. 

Many of them came down to this: “We were cruising for nine and a half years,” Hardaway told me. “So our system would have to handle the space environment, specifically radiation and thermal fluctuation, for nine and a half years.”

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Comparable to a smartphone camera. Wow. 

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