NASA Releases Technicolor Video of Pluto

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A technicolor look at Pluto, in a video produced by an instrument aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. NASA

On Christmas Eve, NASA released a colorful video in which Pluto sails by, behind what looks to be variegated stained glass. The video, researchers say, contains proof that there is water ice on the dwarf planet.

This somewhat odd clip was taken by the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array, or LEISA, a device aboard NASA's New Horizon spacecraft, which passed Pluto early this year. The instrument looks at planetary objects through a series of filters that allows it to gather information about what's on the surface, such as ice and rocks. It has a 256- by 256-pixel camera that captures images at two frames per second—it creates a veritable moving image, though not exactly Hollywood quality (standard film speed is 24 frames per second).

While you may have seen videos of Pluto before, those were created by people stitching together different images taken by the spacecraft. This video was actually produced autonomously by an instrument aboard New Horizons, Alex Parker, a researcher with the New Horizons mission, explains in a blog post.

Ice reflects an identifiable signature of infrared light, which this video reveals as patches of white. As Parker explains, this moving image provided proof that there is water ice on Pluto.