New Horizons continues to send home breathtaking images of the dwarf planet Pluto from its July 14 flyby, and its most recent shots reveal stunning secrets about the surface geology.
NASA’s New Horizons space probe soared past Pluto earlier this summer, but it continues to send home mind-blowing images of the dwarf planet’s surface in stunning detail captured during the spacecraft’s flyby. According to a report from Universe Today, the new global mosaic was composed of many high-resolution images taken at a distance of roughly 50,000 miles.
The photos continue to stream in at a steady rate due to the probe’s limited bandwidth, and the latest set reveals mysterious geologic features on the surface of the dwarf planet. The mosaic was generated with more than two dozen raw images snapped by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, or LORRI, the camera attached to New Horizons.
The reason new Pluto photos keep arriving is because the probe could only transmit so much data at a time, and scientific measurements took priority over the snapshots. The probe collected over 50 gigabits of data as it soared past the dwarf planet on July 15.
The mosaic reveals that Pluto is much more geologically active than astronomers once believed. The images show complex mountain ridges and craters coated in complexly crystallized ice covering the strange world.
Each frame in the mosaic was roughly 400 kilometers across. The photos also reveal a heart shaped feature informally named Sputnik Planum, a plain surrounded by mountain ranges that rival the Rockies in the Western U.S.
Scientists also think the surface of Pluto is ripe with nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide, that interact and shift concentrations with the seasons. What was once a mysterious distant world is now proving to hold more secrets than anyone ever imagined.