The emerging faces of Pluto from New Horizons spacecraft
The surface of Pluto as seen from NASA's New Horizons is becoming clearer as the spacecraft gets closer. It is now 39 million kilometres from Pluto (if that sounds a long way, just remember it is 4.7 BILLION kilometres from Earth).
It is on track for its July flight through the Pluto system.
The series of new images – the best ever of the system – above were obtained by the spacecraft’s telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) from 29 May to 2 June. They show a complex world with very bright and very dark terrain, and areas of intermediate brightness in between.
“Even though the latest images were made from more than 30 million miles away, they show an increasingly complex surface with clear evidence of discrete equatorial bright and dark regions—some that may also have variations in brightness,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.
“We can also see that every face of Pluto is different and that Pluto’s northern hemisphere displays substantial dark terrains, though both Pluto’s darkest and its brightest known terrain units are just south of, or on, its equator. Why this is so is an emerging puzzle.”