It seems surprises are not over yet – at least judging from what the newly-downloaded data from New Horizons showed to NASA scientists. Together with the highest resolution pictures sent so far and a trove of spectral data and compositional details, the last imagery displayed also the topography of a strange landscape in a “snakeskin” pattern.
“It’s a unique and perplexing landscape stretching over hundreds of miles. It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology. This’ll really take time to figure out; maybe it’s some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto’s faint sunlight.” (William McKinnon, New Horizons Geology, St. Louis)
This NASA image shows the detail of Pluto’s mountains called Tartarus Dorsa (see this for more on the naming of Pluto’s features) and combines blue, red and infrared images taken by New Horizons’ MVIC Camera on July 14, 2015 [scale:1.3 kilometres].
Thanks to LORRI, instead, we’ve received the highest resolution imagery sent out so far, with features as small as 250 mt across.
“The mosaic includes a segment of so-called Sputnik Planum. Incorporating a series of large polygonal features, in previous releases the icy surface has appeared to be ultra-smooth. But in this new higher-resolution view, it is possible to see a more dune-like and pitted texture.” (BBC Science News, September 25, 2015).
Anyway, while we keep studying its mysterious features, let’s enjoy this magnificent image of the other red planet of the Solar System (fine, dwarf planet. But the controversy about Pluto’s status is far from over…)
(Photo Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)