New Horizons Reveals Signs of Pluto’s Geology

New Horizons Reveals Pluto’s Geology

The latest image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager reveals signs of geology on Pluto. The above image was taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away.

It began as a point of light. Then, it evolved into a fuzzy orb. Now – in its latest portrait from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft – Pluto is being revealed as an intriguing new world with distinct surface features, including an immense dark band known as the “whale.”

As the newest black and white image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) appeared on the morning of July 10, members of the science team reacted with joy and delight, seeing Pluto as never before. There will no doubt be many similar moments to come. New images and data are being gathered each day as New Horizons speeds closer to a July 14 flyby of Pluto, following a journey of three billion miles.

“We’re close enough now that we’re just starting to see Pluto’s geology,” said New Horizons program scientist Curt Niebur, NASA Headquarters in Washington, who’s keenly interested in the gray area just above the whale’s “tail” feature. “It’s a unique transition region with a lot of dynamic processes interacting, which makes it of particular scientific interest.”

New Horizons Closing in on Pluto Flyby

An annotated version indicates features described in the text, and includes a reference globe showing Pluto’s orientation in the image, with the equator and central meridian in bold.

New Horizons’ latest image of Pluto was taken on July 9, 2015 from 3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away, with a resolution of 17 miles (27 kilometers) per pixel. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon, and includes the so-called “tail” of the dark whale-shaped feature along its equator. (The immense, bright feature shaped like a heart had rotated from view when this image was captured.)

“Among the structures tentatively identified in this new image are what appear to be polygonal features; a complex band of terrain stretching east-northeast across the planet, approximately 1,000 miles long; and a complex region where bright terrains meet the dark terrains of the whale,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. “After nine and a half years in flight, Pluto is well worth the wait.”

Source: NASA

2 Comments on "New Horizons Reveals Signs of Pluto’s Geology"

  1. Madanagopal.V.C. | July 11, 2015 at 11:59 pm | Reply

    Pluto also reveals mountains and ridges and possibly craters and it confirms to be a terrestrial planet or planetoid. Pluto is gravitationally locked to Charon , its satelite and the constant face has got this peculiar feature, being bombarded by mateors in a single direction. If Pluto has an atmosphere of appreciable amounts of gases, it would have resulted in methane oceans frozen on its surface and even ice on the polar caps, ice being brought by comets from far off oort cloud. After all water has an extra-terrestrial orgin in cosmos.
    Thank You.

  2. I think those geometric Hexagonal patterns on the surface look like they are caused by a heated core, heating due to tidal forced with Charon etc.and decay causing methane and possibly water ice to melt expand and migrate through buoyancy toward the surface then freezing again into those hex shapes?

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