Yesterday was an awesome day for anyone that is even slightly interested in space as we seen the first ever photo of Pluto from space, taken by NASA’s spacecraft named New Horizons, the picture shown our first look at Pluto’s surface and even a glimpse at its “heart” (which surprisingly looks a little like Pluto the cartoon character).
Today we have been treated once more as NASA has released new images of Pluto, and this time they are close-up looks at the planet and its moons surfaces in spectacularly high detail.
And they certainly didn’t disappoint, with NASA releasing a super close up segment of the bottom of the planet, providing us our first close up look at the newly named “heart”, Tombaugh Regio, after Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto.
NASA also found that there are mountains that are over 11,000 feet high above the surface of the icy body, which NASA say are no less than 100 million years old and they may even be still in the process of building, suggesting that this close-up unit is geologically active today.
“This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system,” said Jeff Moore of New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team.
NASA says that these mountains are likely made up of Pluto’s water-ice “bedrock.”
Interestingly this all allowed NASA to make a new discovery, learning that their theory of gravitational interactions generating mountains might be wrong, this is because Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body and as such some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape.
New Horizons took the close-up image about 1.5 hours before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 478,000 miles away from the surface of the icy planet.
NASA also revealed more details about one of Pluto’s moon called Hydra, releasing the first image that has ever been released of Hydra, allowing NASA to work out that Hydra is 27 x 20 miles in diameter, and that it has a “surprisingly” large surface, which NASA says will be composed mostly of water ice.
Hydra was approximately 400,000 miles away when New Horizons took the image.
Next up New Horizons shown a new image of Charon, showing that the moon in more detail, and helping NASA to learn more about the moon.
At the top of Charon is a dark area which NASA has nicknamed “Mordor”, and then a little lower is a series of cliffs and troughs which extend about 600 miles across the moon, which NASA thinks could hint at internal processing, there’s then a smoother zone just below that which could show that the moon is active.
More interestingly there’s even a canyon in the upper right, along the moon’s curving edge that is about 4-6 miles deep with another on the other side that is about 3 miles deep.
The image of Charon was taken on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles.
NASA will spend the next 16 months analyzing that data, releasing both images and scientific observations along the way, the closest of which will be a big reveal of more details on Friday.