Two images of Pluto reveal more of dwarf planet’s composition

Pluto 1

Pluto 2

The latest images released by NASA of Pluto, taken from the New Horizons spacecraft, provide two interesting views of the planet.

The first image (above top) uses enhanced colour to display differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface.

It paints a new and surprising portrait of the dwarf planet. The “heart of the heart,” Sputnik Planum, is suggestive of a source region of ices. The two bluish-white “lobes” that extend to the southwest and northeast of the “heart” may represent exotic ices being transported away from Sputnik Planum. 

The second image, (above, bottom) shows the dwarf planet in true colour.

The images are the result of combining four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with colour data from the Ralph instrument. The images, taken when the spacecraft was 450,000 kilometres away from the planet.

We have seen the view before – it was taken on 13 July just before New Horizons’ closest approach on 14 July – but this image is twice as sharp, showing features as small as 2.2 kilometres wide.

Note, the lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution colour coverage.

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