Space

Newly released images showcase Pluto's stunning geological diversity

Newly released images showcase...
Synthetic perspective view of Pluto based on images from New Horizons show a 1,100-mile (1,800-km) swathe of terrain
Synthetic perspective view of Pluto based on images from New Horizons show a 1,100-mile (1,800-km) swathe of terrain
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This shot of the northwestern region of Sputnik Planum, roughly 300 miles (470 km) wide, displays broken terrain
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This shot of the northwestern region of Sputnik Planum, roughly 300 miles (470 km) wide, displays broken terrain
10 hours before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto, the spacecraft snapped this image of Charon from a distance of 290,000 miles (470,000 km)
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10 hours before New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto, the spacecraft snapped this image of Charon from a distance of 290,000 miles (470,000 km)
Two images of Pluto's haze layers taken looking back at the dwarf planet – the left image has only undergone minor processing while the right has been specially processed to show a number of discrete haze layers
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Two images of Pluto's haze layers taken looking back at the dwarf planet – the left image has only undergone minor processing while the right has been specially processed to show a number of discrete haze layers
This 220-mile (350-km) shot of Pluto highlights the dwarf planet's highly diverse geological nature, displaying craters, mountains, and swathes of vast terrain
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This 220-mile (350-km) shot of Pluto highlights the dwarf planet's highly diverse geological nature, displaying craters, mountains, and swathes of vast terrain
Synthetic perspective view of Pluto based on images from New Horizons show a 1,100-mile (1,800-km) swathe of terrain
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Synthetic perspective view of Pluto based on images from New Horizons show a 1,100-mile (1,800-km) swathe of terrain
This high resolution mosaic of the icy plain Sputnik Planum and the surrounding area displays a wide array of geological features
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This high resolution mosaic of the icy plain Sputnik Planum and the surrounding area displays a wide array of geological features
Two images taken by New Horizons as it focused on the terminator line – the right image displays how future images may show the "dark side" of pluto, which has been illuminated by the dwarf planet's atmospheric haze
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Two images taken by New Horizons as it focused on the terminator line – the right image displays how future images may show the "dark side" of pluto, which has been illuminated by the dwarf planet's atmospheric haze

NASA has released more breathtaking images from the New Horizons spacecraft's Pluto encounter, showcasing the dwarf planet's surprisingly diverse geological features. The images come in the wake of the probe's high-velocity flyby, during which time the spacecraft collected vast quantities of data on one of the most enigmatic bodies in our solar system.

On September 7, the NewHorizons spacecraft, which at this point is over 3 billion miles (5billion km) from Earth, initiated an intensive data transfer ofimages and information that will take around a year to complete.

Considering that asignal from the probe takes roughly 4.5 hours to reach Earth, withonly between one and four kilobits of data transmitted per second,NASA, and onlookers across the globe, have no choice but to bepatient for New Horizons to impart its treasure trove of information.

This high resolution mosaic of the icy plain Sputnik Planum and the surrounding area displays a wide array of geological features
This high resolution mosaic of the icy plain Sputnik Planum and the surrounding area displays a wide array of geological features

The newly releasedimages reveal a lot about the diverse and surprising natureof Pluto. According to a New Horizons team member, thedwarf planet is at least as geologically diverse as Mars, and thediscoveries made by New Horizons are not limited to the planet's surface.

Pluto's atmospherichaze has a more densely layered structure than had previously beenexpected, so much so that the gas actually illuminates the dark sideof the dwarf planet. Members of the New Horizons science team believethat this effect may even have presented unexpected imagingopportunities for the probe.

The images also appearto highlight vast dunes and nitrogen flows emanating from mountainousregions that may themselves be vast chunks of ice water floating onhuge deposits of frozen nitrogen. Furthermore, as on Mars, the imagespresent evidence of valley networks apparently carved by an unknown flowing material.

Two images of Pluto's haze layers taken looking back at the dwarf planet – the left image has only undergone minor processing while the right has been specially processed to show a number of discrete haze layers
Two images of Pluto's haze layers taken looking back at the dwarf planet – the left image has only undergone minor processing while the right has been specially processed to show a number of discrete haze layers

"Pluto is showing usa diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rivalanything we’ve seen in the solar system," says New HorizonsPrincipal Investigator Alan Stern, of the South West ResearchInstitute, Boulder, Colorado. "If an artist had painted this Plutobefore our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top – butthat’s what is actually there."

After flying by on July 14, the New Horizons spacecraft is already 43 million miles(69 million km) beyond Pluto, yet the mission just keeps giving.Friday will see the release of more images of the dwarf planet's moons, and more surprises are sure to follow.

Source: NASA

2 comments
Island Architect
It seems like the more we know about our universe the Madder and the more Bizarre the Politicians get. Is there a correlation here? Bill
IvanWashington
I wonder what pluto's surface looks like at ground level? like the earth's moon's surface, powdery and gritty?