Newest View of Pluto’s Enigmatic Terrains Puzzle NASA
New Horizons: Pluto in ‘Even-Higher Resolution’ This Week
NASA just released numerous fresh images of Pluto like we’ve never seen before—and yet again—we at Dark Matter News are near-speechless!
This evening we see strange-looking “snakeskin” mountains, pockmarked dunes made not-of sand, but ICE; we see a new spectral image set of peculiar methane collection points, as well as new dynamic photos revealing Pluto’s array of planetary surface tones. Join us as we investigate these images, one-by-one!
1.) “Snakeskin” Mountains of ‘Tartarus Dorsa’
Nobody’s quite sure what to call this area yet. Unofficially dubbed, “Tartarus Dorsa,” NASA reveals that Pluto’s odd surface terrain has an almost-‘scaly’ sort-of texture. This photo covers about a 330 mile surface area with simulated color through multi-spectrum cameras aboard New Horizons. It comprises multiple layers of imaging, using separate red, blue and infrared light capture methods. The smallest visible parts of this image are estimated to be about 0.8 miles across.
We used MVIC’s infrared channel to extend our spectral view of Pluto,” said John Spencer, a GGI deputy lead from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Pluto’s surface colors were enhanced in this view to reveal subtle details in a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a wonderfully complex geological and climatological story that we have only just begun to decode.”
2.) Ice Dunes
This one was captured utilizing the “narrow-angle Long Range Reconnaisance Imager” (or LORRI, for short). The smallest areas appear 270 yards across in this image, with the total panorama measuring approximately 330 miles wide. These are some of the highest-resolution images of Pluto downlinked to-date from the New Horizons spacecraft.
Here it is a little closer:
3.) Peculiar Methane Collection Points
For this image, NASA utilized data from a diagnostic device called “The Ralph/LEISA infrared spectrometer” on-board New Horizons in combination with a long-range orbiter (LORRI) to map areas containing higher-densities of methane along Pluto’s surface. What’s so strange about this map? For starters, researchers have discovered that Pluto contains large regions which appear to contain little-or-no methane whatsoever (i.e. Cthulu Regio) versus the methane-abundant areas like Sputnik Planum. Nobody quite understands why methane seems to love the brighter areas of Pluto, in contrast to what one might think about methane collecting toward the center of darker craters.
“It’s like the classic chicken-or-egg problem,” said Will Grundy, New Horizons surface composition team lead from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. “We’re unsure why this is so, but the cool thing is that New Horizons has the ability to make exquisite compositional maps across the surface of Pluto, and that’ll be crucial to resolving how enigmatic Pluto works.”
4.) Pluto’s Amazing Tonal Spectrum
According to NASA:
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Pluto’s surface sports a remarkable range of subtle colors, enhanced in this view to a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a complex geological and climatological story that scientists have only just begun to decode. The image resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers). The viewer is encouraged to zoom in on the image on a larger screen to fully appreciate the complexity of Pluto’s surface features.”
What do you think of these exciting new discoveries? Do you think that this could perhaps be one of the most exciting eras of space exploration?
Join in the discussion! Comment, share on Facebook and find us on Twitter, hashtag #DMTalk!