Little is known about Pluto due to its distant location and unusual oval orbit, which complicates observation from Earth.
“Now we have settled the fact that these very small planets can be very active after a long time and I think it is going to send a lot of geophysicists back to the drawing boards to try and understand how exactly you do that”, said principal investigator Alan Stern.
New Horizons “is looking at the temperature of #Pluto’s night side”.
The camera used to take the stunning images of Pluto was made in Essex!
NASA is now analyzing New Horizons data to determine exactly what type of rocks and other substances we’re seeing on Pluto, but we do finally have a good idea of what the dwarf planet actually looks like to the naked eye.
Scientists said Pluto’s mountains likely formed within the last 100 million years, a relative blink compared to the age of the solar system.
“This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system“, adds researcher Jeff Moore.
The heat that appears to be shaping Pluto may be coming from the decay of radioactive material normally found in planetary bodies, the scientists said.
“The bedrock that makes those mountains must be made of H20, of water-ice”, said Stern.
The new view of Charon reveals a youthful and varied terrain.
Especially astonishing to scientists was the total absence of impact craters in a zoom-in shot of one otherwise rugged slice of Pluto.
The moon also has a massive canyon some four to six miles deep on it that resembles features seen on Uranus’ moons, as well as Saturn’s moon Tethys.
The north polar region of Charon has a giant dark marking that NASA has been referring to as Mordor, which basically means they totally get us.
The newest image shows the surface of Pluto.
This image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon was taken on July 13 from a distance of 289,000 miles.
Spectroscopic data collected by the spacecraft reveals that Pluto has abundant methane ice but with striking differences among regions across the frozen surface.
The New Zealand media have widely covered these first clear glimpses of Pluto. New Horizons is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
New Horizons, which was designed, built and operated by Johns Hopkins University, uses seven instruments, including an infrared imager; an ultraviolet spectrometer that analyzes Pluto’s atmosphere; and a telescopic camera.