The Scientific Exoplanets Renderer (SER) is our core software to generate photorealistic-looking images of planets such as the ones for the Visible Paleo-Earth and the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. SER was developed to simulate complex stellar transit events and interpret planetary light curves. It takes as little information from a planet as available to automatically create representations. The more input given the more the images become more scientific than artistic representations.
Here with used SER to create a basic representation of Pluto (Figure 1 and 2) given its albedo maps obtained by Buie et al. (2010A, 2010B) from the Hubble Space Telescope (Figure 3). We will keep generating better and better representations as we get more data from Pluto, specially from New Horizons. We also plan to produce more creative versions by adding more surface features. It will be fun to compare our progress, starting from our first image, until the final close-up pictures of Pluto on July 2015.
Figure 1. This representation of Pluto combines real and synthetic data to create a more photorealistic look. The image shows a possible scenario of Pluto that preserves the original basic albedo features. It uses a false color palette (similar to Triton) for only one of the two channels of the HST filters (F435W). Credit: PHL @ UPR Arecibo, NASA HST.
Figure 2. Equirectangular projection of the Pluto map shown in Figure 1. Data for the south pole was extrapolated since it was not available in the original HST data. Credit: PHL @ UPR Arecibo, NASA HST.
Figure 3. This is the most detailed view to date of the entire surface of the dwarf planet Pluto, as constructed from multiple NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken from 2002 to 2003. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute).