The latest image of Pluto shows mountains on its surface. Image Credit: NASA
The first ever high resolution images of the surface of Pluto have been unveiled at a press conference.
The tiny distant world of Pluto has finally been revealed in unprecedented detail thanks to the first close up photographs returned by the New Horizons probe following its flyby on Tuesday.
NASA scientists were ecstatic as they announced the impressive images which showed a diverse, mountainous landscape and a surface that seemed conspicuously devoid of craters.
"You can’t make mountains out of methane and nitrogen," said mission scientist John Spencer.
"Water ice is strong enough to hold up big mountains and that’s what we think we’re seeing here. This is the first time we’ve seen this. The methane and nitrogen are just a coating."
One of the most important new discoveries made so far as a result of the pictures is that Pluto appears to be geologically active despite being far away from any of the gas giant planets.
"There is no giant body that can be deforming Pluto on an ongoing regular basis to heat the interior," said mission principal investigator Alan Stern. "So this is telling us you don’t need tidal heating to power [change on icy worlds]. This is a really big discovery that we’ve just made."
Also revealed at the press event was a new image of Pluto's moon Charon which also showed some interesting geology including deep cliffs and troughs indicative of fracturing across its surface.
"Charon just blew our socks off when we had the new image today," said scientist Cathy Olkin. "The team has just been abuzz. There is so much interesting science in this one image alone."
Many more images are expected to be released over the coming days and weeks.
Source: The Guardian | Comments (96)
Pluto, New Horizons