Vast mosaic shows Pluto’s surface in intricate detail
NASA has released a fresh mosaic of Pluto's surface stitched together from the highest resolution images captured by the spacecraft as it sped past the planetoid on July 14, 2015. The agency has accompanied the release with a video that takes the viewers on a tour of the mosaic, highlighting the stunning variety of terrain discovered by New Horizons.
Pluto and its largemoon Charon have surprised planetary scientists again and again by showcasing a wide range of geological and atmospheric features. Many of the more visually-striking ofthe phenomena are captured in the new release, which boasts anaverage resolution of 260 ft (80 m) per pixel.
"This new imageproduct is just magnetic," comments Alan Stern, New Horizonsprincipal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder,Colorado. "It makes me want to go back on another mission to Plutoand get high-resolution images like these across the entire surface."
The mosaic begins in the north west of the encounter hemisphere, extending across the face of the planetoid and ending near the night/day divide knownas the "terminator line". The images used for the piecewere taken by the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager(LORRI), at a distance of 9,850 miles (15,850 km), a mere 23 minutesbefore closest approach.
Thevideo flyby of Pluto's surface begins in the north west of theencounter hemisphere looking horizontally across the surface, panningdown to reveal a series of large craters and a blocky mountain rangebefore moving on to Sputnik Planum.
Dueto the perspective from which the images were captured, SputnikPlanum dominates the majority of the mosaic. The unusual cell-like structure of the plain that forms Pluto's "heart" is shown inexquisite detail, before giving way to an unstructured nitrogen iceplain.
As the camera pansfurther down the plain becomesincreasingly pitted and hummocky before finally transitioning intothe darker highland terrain that borders the plain near theterminator line. At this point, the spacecraft is orientated to look straight at the planet's surface.
Scrolldown to view a video tour of the new release courtesy of NASA.