Today, the Facebook-owned social media network debuted NASA’s first surface image of the dwarf planet, Pluto. This social shake-up saw the NASA Instagram account posting the photo an hour ahead of NASA officially releasing it on their website.
SNEAK PEEK of gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles. This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach – 7:49 a.m. EDT today. This same image will be released and discussed at 8 a.m. EDT today. Watch our briefing live on NASA Television at: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv The high res pic will be posted on the web at: http://www.nasa.gov. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface. Image Credit: NASA #nasa #pluto #plutoflyby #newhorizons #solarsystem #nasabeyond #science
NASA has some 3.5 million followers on Instagram and can routinely gain more than 100,00 likes per image, with the dwarf planet’s ‘selfie’ garnering 199,000 in just four hours.
John Yembrick, NASA’s social media manager, in an email to Wired said, “We made an editorial decision to give the world a sneak peek of the image on Instagram. We feel it’s important to engage new audiences.”
This attempt to engage a younger audience and astronomer enthusiasts is the culmination of a nine year journey by the space craft, New Horizons. Which is capable of creating images with 1,000 times the resolution of telescopes on Earth. NASA’s twitter account has been live-tweeting their first trip to Pluto by New Horizons, using the hashtag #PlutoFlyBy.
This savvy move by the space agency means a massive, instant, win; the photo has doubtless been seen more times than if it was neglected on their website through traditional means. And a first for Instagram, as a spokesperson told Wired. “It’s the first time we are aware of a major debut”.
Brands, companies and celebrities sharing ‘breaking news’ on social networks in favour of their own ‘traditional sites’ seems to be a growing trend with more and more using Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook to share their updates.