New Horizons is the fastest space probe ever, and it still took ten years to cover some three billion miles – that’s some five billion km for non-Americans – to rendezvous with this distant world.
“This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system”, said Jeff Moore of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Activity on other icy bodies is powered by gravitational pulls from nearby larger objects, which Pluto does not have.
Other images, now being relayed back to earth as part of a mosaic, will eventually encompass much of the dwarf planet’s surface.
Indeed, even the single tiny corner of Pluto revealed Wednesday shows a surprisingly complex geography full of mountains and valleys.
The photo also reveals an astounding lack of craters on Pluto’s surface, despite the presence of comets pummeling about throughout the solar system.
NASA’s New Horizons probe has discovered a stunning mountain range on Pluto with peaks jutting as high as 11,000 feet above the surface.
Perhaps most notably, there are very few visible impact craters.
Well, it turns out Pluto isn’t quite as cuddly as its canine counterpart belonging to Mickey Mouse.
This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft.
The spacecraft took the image early Tuesday morning, just 1.5 hours before its closest approach to Pluto. The inscription on the container reads: “Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system’s “third zone” Adelle and Muron’s boy, Patricia’s husband, Annette and Alden’s father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend: Clyde W. Tombaugh (1906-1997)”.
New details of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager.
These mountains lie on the edge of the heart-shaped region (which of course has led to some excitement).
[NASA’s spacecraft made it to Pluto. However, it’s not the only geological anomaly New Horizons has spotted.
Pluto (left) and its moon, Charon, (right) in false color.
New images of Pluto are expected to be released Friday.
The New Horizons spacecraft was designed and built by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.