HONG KONG: Pluto is ready for its close up.NASA released new photos from New Horizons’ Pluto flyby on Friday in all their stunning clarity and detail. The images were taken with the onboard telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) about 15 minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, according to the space agency.
The new high-resolution images give the closest look at Pluto’s diverse terrain with a variety of icy mountains and deep craters spanning 50-miles wide. One image features Pluto’s rugged Idrisi mountains about 500 miles northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, located on the side of Pluto’s well-known heart feature.
“The mountains bordering Sputnik Planum are absolutely stunning at this resolution,” John Spencer of New Horizons’ science team said. “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.”
New Horizons team hopes to learn about Pluto’s geological past from the new data.
“Impact craters are nature’s drill rigs, and the new, highest-resolution pictures of the bigger craters seem to show that Pluto’s icy crust, at least in places, is distinctly layered,” New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team lead Willaim McKinnon said in a press release. “Looking into Pluto’s depths is looking back into geologic time, which will help us piece together Pluto’s geological history.”
These latest images reveal details about an area approximately the size of a large city block at 250-280 feet per pixel. The New Horizons images are six times better than the resolution of the latest global Pluto map.