New Pluto image showcases intricate pit pattern

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NASA's New Horizons spacecraft continues to relay ever-more detailed images of its July 24 flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto(Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA's New Horizon's spacecraft has returned the most detailed view ever of a region of the dwarf planet Pluto, which is covered in an intricate pattern of pits. The image was taken on July 14th by the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) from less than 9,550 miles (15,400 km) above the planet's surface.

The newly-released image spans roughly 50 miles (80 km) across, featuring an area informally known as Tombaugh Regio. It's a region which, based on the relative sparsity of impact sites, is believed to be extremely young in geological terms. Each of the pits featured in the image, which was taken a mere 13 minutes prior to the spacecraft's closest approach, is believed to span hundreds of yards across.

Two ringed structures, which may represent impact craters, are visible in the bottom right and left of the image(Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The distinctive pits that permeate the region are believed to have been formed through a combination of ice fracturing and evaporation. Moving forward, the New Horizons science team is hoping to analyze the alignment of the pits in order to glean insights into the ice flow mechanics and the transfer of volatile materials between the planet's surface and its tenuous atmosphere.

New Horizons is currently speeding its way towards its next potential scientific target, a planetoid in the Kuiper Belt known as 2014 MU69.

Source: NASA

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