Pluto Pictures: NASA Releases Close-Up Of Dwarf Planet’s Mountains
NASA released another image of Pluto Wednesday collected by the New Horizons spacecraft that shows a close-up view of a mountain range that reaches 11,000 feet high on the dwarf planet.
“We have not found a single impact crater on this image,” New Horizons mission scientist John Spencer said, adding of the mountains, “This means it must be a very young surface.”
“You do not need tidal heating to power geological heating on icy bodies,” said Spencer, explaining that it was previously believed that tidal heating was needed for such phenomenon. “That’s a really important discovery we just made this morning.”
NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown, announcing the new picture, said, “Yesterday, America’s space program took another historic leap for humankind. Today, the New Horizons team is bringing what was previously a blurred point of light into focus.”
On Tuesday, NASA had released a picture of the dwarf planet that showed it in greater detail than it had ever been seen before.
“Gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles,” NASA captioned the clear picture of Pluto on Instagram. “This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach, which was at 7:49 a.m. EDT Tuesday – about 7,750 miles above the surface — roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India – making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth.”
NASA has also released images of Pluto with its largest moon, Charon, which was pictured on its own as well.
Through pictures and data picked up by New Horizons, scientists have learned that Charon has a chasm 4-6 miles deep, as well as active resurfacing.
The New Horizons spacecraft was launched on January 19, 2006. It will continue to collect data for NASA for the next 12 Earth days, or the next two rotations of Pluto.