“On Wednesday, scientists presented the first pictures acquired by the New Horizons probe during its historic flyby of the dwarf planet“. A few months later, astronomers downgraded it, controversially, to dwarf planet – a not un-reasonable move, given the recent discovery of other small planetoids in the so-called Kuiper belt of debris that exists in what we now refer to as “trans-Neptunian space”.
“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 (GGI).
New Horizons’ science instruments include spectrometers and dust detectors, along with its cameras, mapping Pluto’s surface and studying the dwarf planet’s five known satellites. They’re organized from those closest to the sun (Mercury) to the outer bodies like Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto. Charon also revealed a surprisingly complex geography, including cliffs and canyons, as well as a lack of relative impact craters.
The first close-up image of Pluto’s equatorial region near the base of the heart-shaped feature shows a mountain range with peaks as high as 11,000 feet above the surface of the icy body.
They were beamed back along with a number of important images of neighbours Pluto and Charon this morning.
Another puzzling fact about Pluto is the presence of towering mountains on its surface.
The fruits of New Horizons’ trip to Pluto continue to emerge, with the latest photos showing fresh mountain peaks and raising new questions for scientists. It took nine years, but now the surfaces of Pluto and Charon have been revealed with mountains and, no, there are no whales.
“I don’t think any one of us could have imagined that it was this good of a toy store”, principal scientist Alan Stern said at a news conference. The mountainous region must have been formed as a result of some other process.
The images also show that Pluto and its largest moon Charon are geologically active, they say.
Measurements made by New Horizons reveal that Charon is 750 miles across.
[NASA’s spacecraft made it to Pluto.
New Horizons is the first scientific investigation to explore the edge of our solar system.
The piano-sized spacecraft, which was built by researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, raced by Pluto at almost 31,000 miles per hour.