Space

New Horizons delivers more breathtaking views of Pluto

New Horizons delivers more bre...
An image of Pluto's back-lit surface shot from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km) by the New Horizons spacecraft
An image of Pluto's back-lit surface shot from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km) by the New Horizons spacecraft
View 6 Images
An image of Pluto's back-lit surface shot from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km) by the New Horizons spacecraft
1/6
An image of Pluto's back-lit surface shot from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km) by the New Horizons spacecraft
This image of Pluto's crescent spans 230 miles (380 km), featuring the great plain Sputnik Planum on the right and a mountain range including the unofficially named Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes to the left
2/6
This image of Pluto's crescent spans 230 miles (380 km), featuring the great plain Sputnik Planum on the right and a mountain range including the unofficially named Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes to the left
This 115 mile (185 km) shot of Pluto's surface exhibits a near surface haze/fog, made apparent by the setting Sun
3/6
This 115 mile (185 km) shot of Pluto's surface exhibits a near surface haze/fog, made apparent by the setting Sun
An enlarged image of the boxed area from the previous composite. Red arrows indicate where (most likely nitrogen) ice is flowing from a mountainous area into Sputnik Planum. Blue arrows indicate the flow front of ice moving into the plain
4/6
An enlarged image of the boxed area from the previous composite. Red arrows indicate where (most likely nitrogen) ice is flowing from a mountainous area into Sputnik Planum. Blue arrows indicate the flow front of ice moving into the plain
In this image, which covers the same 390 miles (630 km) patch of Sputnik Planum as before, complex glacier flow lines can be picked out thanks to back-lighting from the Sun
5/6
In this image, which covers the same 390 miles (630 km) patch of Sputnik Planum as before, complex glacier flow lines can be picked out thanks to back-lighting from the Sun
This composite image is dominated by Pluto's Sputnik Planum. NASA scientists believe that the brighter region to the right of the shot may be the result of a coating of nitrogen ice
6/6
This composite image is dominated by Pluto's Sputnik Planum. NASA scientists believe that the brighter region to the right of the shot may be the result of a coating of nitrogen ice
View gallery - 6 images

A new image release from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has provided more intriguing views of Pluto, including a stunning shot of the dwarf planet's tenuous atmosphere. Back-lit by the Sun, the image was captured from the probe at a range of 18,000 km, a mere 15 minutes after it made its closest approach on July 14.

The images contained in the latest release were captured by the spacecraft's wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image featured above spans 780 miles (1,250 km), with back-lighting from the Sun emphasizing a variety of geological features such as a mountain range that reaches to heights of up to 3,353 m (11,000 ft)above the surface, and the vast icy plain Sputnik Planum.

"This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself," states Principal Investigator for the New Horizons mission Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder,Colorado. "But this image is also a scientific bonanza, revealing new details about Pluto’s atmosphere, mountains, glaciers and plains."

This composite image is dominated by Pluto's Sputnik Planum. NASA scientists believe that the brighter region to the right of the shot may be the result of a coating of nitrogen ice
This composite image is dominated by Pluto's Sputnik Planum. NASA scientists believe that the brighter region to the right of the shot may be the result of a coating of nitrogen ice

The images highlights over a dozen distinct layers of haze that stretch roughly 62 miles (100 km) away from the dwarf planet's surface. The shots appear to display the hallmarks of an Earth-like hydrological cycle, that substitutes water (which is cycled in the atmosphere on Earth) for exotic ices, including nitrogen, that cover the vast plains and are subsequently redistributed via evaporation.

A further image displays surface fog which may be responsible for day-to-day weather variations on the surface of the dwarf planet.

The latest shots follow on the heels of an image release on September 10 that showcased Pluto's surprisingly complex and diverse geological characteristics. The massive data downlink from New Horizons is set to go on for roughly a year, so we can look forward to many more insights from the NASA probe.

Source: NASA

View gallery - 6 images
7 comments
mahak
As the article confirms, this is a composite image which any artist can easily produce with just a $200 photoshop software. I kindly ask NASA to share with us the real, raw authentic non-composite $1,000,000,000 photos so we can be delighted to know where they are spending our hard earned tax dollars..
Daniel Gregory
Millions of dollars in research and technology provided to NASA and they can't even get pictures in color. :(
Robert in Vancouver
According to Green Peace and other enviro groups, nitrogen is a geenhouse gas that is worse than CO2.
If the enviro's scarey stories about greenhouse gas were right, then Pluto should be very warm because it is covered with nitrogen.
Ichabod Ebenezer
Perhaps after spending their comparatively meager budget on the near-miraculous feat of successfully throwing a dart at a moving bulls-eye 4.7 billion miles away, they only had enough left to buy an absolutely amazing camera for the purposes of science and left off the one that takes full-color selfies?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The nitrogen is a fortuitous find, as it was the missing ingredient for teraforming and much cheaper to export from Pluto than from Earth..
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
@robo
You must be kidding. I assume you are. Pluto receives a fraction of the sunlight that Earth receives. A more apt comparison would be Venus and Mars, since those are planets closer to Earth, and hence receives roughly the same energy from the Sun.
You won't make that comparison however, because Venus is very hot due to an abundance of greenhouse gasses, and Mars very cold due to lack of it.
Panocles
80% of what you breathe is nitrogen.