The latest images from NASA's New Horizons mission reveal a stunning color palate on the dwarf planet Pluto.
NASA continues to release stunning photos of the dwarf planet Pluto taken by their New Horizons space probe as it sailed past the last major bodies in the solar system this July. According to a report from Discovery News, the most recent photos paint Pluto in an entirely new light; they depict a psychedelic color gradient that shows just what the dwarf planet is actually made of.
While the photo appears to be an artistic rendition of the dwarf planet, it actually comes from a technique called “principal component analysis,” which shows the viewer slight changes in the composition of the surface. The photo was snapped by New Horizons’ Ralph/MVIC color camera on its historic July 14 flyby this year from a distance of 22,000 miles.
Scientists are continually perplexed by the wave of new information sent back by the space probe. Already, they have discovered that Pluto is covered in icy planes that stretch outward for miles, massive peaks that jut out from the surface, a complex chemical composition with compounds including methane and water ice, and even a delicate, foreign atmosphere that wisps above the planet’s surface.
What astronomers once believed was a barren, boring rock floating at the edge of the solar system has turned out to be a magnificent world of wonder. The new psychedelic rendering only highlights how dynamic this faraway world is.
The photo was presented by the New Horizons team at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting of the American Astronomical Society in National Harbor, Maryland. It shows Pluto’s distinct regions, with the plains and canyons bursting out into view. The region to the north contrasts sharply with the young ice flows in the western Tombaugh Regio region, which is shaped like a heart, and the shadows of the strange “snakeskin” Tartarus Dorsa plains can be seen in the east.
As New Horizons blasts deeper into space towards the Kuiper belt, it continues to flood NASA with stunning new images of the dwarf planet Pluto. A press release from NASA describing the photo can be found here.