NASA has released high resolution photos of Pluto. The images were taken by the New Horizons Spacecraft in July. New Horizons did a fly-by of the dwarf planet in July and is still sending back data.
The images show a region of Pluto known as the Sputnik Planum, the western lobe of the Tombaugh Regio. The icy plains seen in the image above are surrounded by the mountainous region dubbed ‘the badlands.’ These photos were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons.
“The mountains bordering Sputnik Planum are absolutely stunning at this resolution” Said John Spencer, a member of the New Horizons team. “The new details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce our earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations.”
To create these images, NASA combined several pictures taken by New Horizons just prior to reaching its closest point to Pluto. The fact that images of this caliber are possible from a flyby is remarkable says Allen Stern, principal investigator if New Horizons.
“Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there already — down among the craters, mountains and ice fields — less than five months after flyby! The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable,” Said Stern.
Also released were pictures of the Tombaugh Regio, the now famous heart region of Pluto. Several pits are seen in this image, which are thought to have formed through fracturing and evaporating of ice.