In a historic first, New Horizons reveals Pluto’s geology


As NASA scientists and space-watchers get revved up for the historic July 14th Pluto flyby, New Horizons continues to send back images as it hurtles toward the distant dwarf planet.

On the morning of July 10th, scientists received a black and white image of Pluto from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) instrument. Although the image was taken 3.3 million miles away from Pluto, New Horizons was close enough to the planet to give scientists a sneak peek at the geological processes that have shaped and are still shaping the dwarf planet:

“‘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.’

This image of Pluto features the side of the dwarf planet that faces Charon, its largest moon. “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 in a NASA press release yesterday.

New Horizons pluto geology

How to access more images courtesy of New Horizons

One particularly interesting project is NASA’s Eyes on Pluto app, which allows users an immersive space mission experience. Check out the video below for more information on Eyes on Pluto and be sure to visit the program’s website here.

And there’s more. After New Horizons flies past Pluto and Charon, the probe will move on to examine other objects in the Kuiper belt. As the probe hurtles toward Pluto at 31,000 miles per hour, NASA is releasing a steady stream of images and video to keep the public engaged.

About Author

Adam Cameron spent his academic career learning about Iran, but ultimately decided that a job in the military-security-industrial complex just wasn't for him. He worked with Iranian refugees for a few years and has always dreamed of being a writer. He lives in North Hollywood, California in an 8-bit cocoon made out of an elaborate blanket fort covered in Adventure Time posters.

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