New Pluto image showcases intricate pit pattern
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-releasedimage spans roughly 50 miles (80 km) across, featuring an area informally known as Tombaugh Regio. It's a region which, based on therelative sparsity of impact sites, is believed to be extremely youngin geological terms. Each of the pits featured in the image, whichwas taken a mere 13 minutes prior to the spacecraft's closestapproach, is believed to span hundreds of yards across.
The distinctive pitsthat permeate the region are believed to have been formed through acombination of ice fracturing and evaporation. Moving forward, the NewHorizons science team is hoping to analyze the alignment of the pitsin order to glean insights into the ice flow mechanics and thetransfer of volatile materials between the planet's surface and itstenuous atmosphere.
New Horizons iscurrently speeding its way towards its next potential scientifictarget, a planetoid in the Kuiper Belt known as 2014 MU69.