A new close-up image of an equatorial region near the base of Pluto’s bright heart-shaped feature shows a mountain range with peaks jutting as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.
Charon is also pummeled with impact craters, something which can’t be said about Pluto. “This is the first time we’ve seen this”. He marveled: “The Pluto system IS something wonderful”.
Pluto has fascinated astronomers since 1930, when it was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh using the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.
“Eventually, we’ll get to a point where we can’t operate the primary spacecraft computer and the communications system”.
Meanwhile, Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, was also snapped by New Horizons in stunning detail, with the biggest surprise found by NASA scientists being the apparent lack of craters on its surface. Nine years and three billion miles seem impossible for many humans to comprehend.
“Charon just blew our socks off”, said Olkin. Since Pluto does not receive any heat from a host planet or another satellite, NASA will seek an explanation for how the distant dwarf planet remains geologically active. “It’s going to send a lot of geophysicists back to the drawing board”.
It’s been a big week for space exploration thanks to NASA’s New Horizons probe, which finally arrived at Pluto on the outskirts of the solar system.
“We can be very sure that water is there in great abundance”, Dr. Stern said. The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Previously, such activity has only been seen on icy moons, where it can be explained by “tidal heating” caused by gravitational interactions with a large host planet. Or it could be coming from energy released by the gradual freezing of an underground ocean. Well it appears that Charon has quite the varied terrain, with cliffs and troughs stretching for around 600 miles, which indicates some interesting geological activity. The Pluto picture was shot just 1½ hours before the spacecraft’s moment of closest approach.
e2v, which has supplied technology for more than 150 space projects, including the Hubble telescope, provided two specialist imaging sensors for the Pluto mission.
AN ESSEX technology firm has helped Nasa capture photos of mountains on the surface of dwarf planet Pluto. Scientists announced that even more stunning photos would be released in a news briefing on Friday.