Backlit pluto

Stunning backlit images of Pluto show dwarf planet’s features as never before

Backlit pluto
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

The images above was taken just 15 minutes after New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto in July, looking back toward the sun.

It captures a near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon.

The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 3,500 metres high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline.

To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere.

The image was taken from a distance of 18,000 kilometres from Pluto.

The top image above is of a scene 1,250 kilometres wide, while the close-up view beneath it is 380 kilometres across.

In this small section of larger image of Pluto, above, the setting sun illuminates a fog or near-surface haze, which is cut by the parallel shadows of many local hills and small mountains.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Sputnik Planum is the informal name of the smooth, light-bulb shaped region on the left of this composite of several New Horizons images of Pluto. The brilliantly white upland region to the right may be coated by nitrogen ice that has been transported through the atmosphere from the surface of Sputnik Planum, and deposited on these uplands. The box shows the location of the glacier detail images below.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI