Incredible New Pluto Pic Highlights ‘Arctic’ Peaks and Valleys in Backlit Panorama

Krystian Science SpaceScientists were stunned after viewing the latest images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. Not only is the surface of Pluto covered in large icy mountains, low-lying hazes, and streams of frozen nitrogen – it also looks eerily like the arctic.

The photo below was taken just 15 minutes after New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. The spacecraft looked back toward the sun and caught this backlit panorama of Pluto’s rugged mountains and flat icy plains. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s atmosphere. Trippy! 🌒

Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This new view offers a unique look at Pluto’s varied terrains and atmosphere. It was taken by New Horizons’ wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14 and downlinked to Earth on Sept. 13. Below is a close up of Pluto’s majestic icy mountains and flat glassy plains. It was taken at a distance of 11,000 miles.

Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
Closer Look: Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator 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.

Near-Surface Haze or Fog on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Near-Surface Haze or Fog on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Let me quickly break down the geography of Pluto’s ‘heart.’ Sputnik Planum is the name of the smooth region on the left of the heart. The white upland region on the right may be coated in nitrogen ice that evaporated from the surface of Sputnik. The box shows the location of the glacier detail image below.

Pluto’s ‘Heart’. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Pluto’s ‘Heart’. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Valley glaciers on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Valley glaciers on Pluto. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Image

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