Scientists 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! 🌒
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.
“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.”
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.
It’s official – the world has Pluto fever! NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft just completed its nearly decade long mission to fly by the dwarf planet Pluto. Christmas has come early for the scientific community as the exciting discoveries keep rolling in! What they’ve learned over the past week will blow your mind. 🌖🚀
Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced Wednesday by NASA’s New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft’s first ever Pluto flyby. Here is a collection of incredible photos that highlight just a few of NASA’s recent findings. Feel free to geek out – such an exciting time! 🚀
“Pluto New Horizons is a true mission of exploration showing us why basic scientific research is so important,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The mission has had nine years to build expectations about what we would see during closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Today, we get the first sampling of the scientific treasure collected during those critical moments, and I can tell you it dramatically surpasses those high expectations.”
New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise — a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. Credits: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI
Pluto’s tiny potato-shaped moon Hydra emerges from the shadows, revealing its irregularly shaped body characterized by significant brightness variations over the surface. Credit: NASA
Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles. Credit: NASA
The latest spectra from New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface of Pluto. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI
A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11. Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI
This graphic presents a view of Pluto and Charon as they would appear if placed slightly above Earth’s surface and viewed from a great distance. Recent measurements obtained by New Horizons indicate that Pluto has a diameter of 2370 km, 18.5% that of Earth’s, while Charon has a diameter of 1208 km, 9.5% that of Earth’s. Credit: NASA
New Horizons Flight Controllers celebrate after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the flyby of Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 in the Mission Operations Center (MOC) of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Even President Obama got in on the Pluto action! Twitter: @POTUS
New Horizons has obtained impressive new images of Pluto and its large moon Charon that highlight their compositional diversity. These are not actual color images of Pluto and Charon—they are shown here in exaggerated colors. Image Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI
New Horizons spacecraft. Image/File credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/David Napolillo