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Behold the Hidden Colors of Pluto

Enhanced-color view of Pluto (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Enhanced-color view of Pluto (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This newly-released picture of Pluto isn’t quite what our eyes would perceive… but then our eyes aren’t high-tech scientific imaging sensors like the ones aboard New Horizons! An enhanced-color image made from data acquired by the spacecraft’s LORRI and Ralph cameras on July 13, 2015, this view of Pluto shows the many variations in surface compositions across the planet’s visible area. What the compositions are specifically and how they got to be in the places they’re in are questions still being worked on by scientists, so for now we can all just have fun speculating and enjoy the view!

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Another Mountain Range Discovered on Pluto

LORRI camera images of Pluto from July 13 (left) and July 14 (right) – the enlarged area shows a second mountain range on the border of Tombaugh Regio. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. Edit by Jason Major).

LORRI camera images of Pluto from July 13 (left) and July 14 (right) – the enlarged area shows a second mountain range on the border of Tombaugh Regio. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. Edit by Jason Major).

A new image from New Horizons has emerged, showing a new, smaller mountain range on the southwestern border of Pluto’s “heart” region. The image was captured during the July 14 flyby, during which time the spacecraft passed less than 8,000 miles from the planet’s surface.

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Here’s What We Learned About Pluto Today

Pluto's Norgay Montes, 3500-meter-high ice mountains south of the Tombaugh Regio

Pluto’s Norgay Montes, 3500-meter-high ice mountains south of the Tombaugh Regio “heart” feature.

Three days after New Horizons‘ flight through the Pluto system and the data is coming in fast and furious (albeit quite highly compressed!), giving scientists a virtual “toy box” of new findings to make about these distant worlds’ exotic nature. On Wednesday we got our first looks at Pluto’s 11,000-foot-high mountains, now informally named Norgay Montes (making them the first extraterrestrial features to be named after a Nepali) and on Thursday we saw the surface of Charon, where a mountain seems to have been sunk into a cavity of some sort. Today during another press conference from Johns Hopkins University NASA HQ in Washington, DC more of Pluto’s surface was revealed, along with some preliminary findings about its surprisingly-extensive atmosphere. These are some of the highlights…

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Incredible 3D Rendering of Pluto’s Icy Alps

It’s only been a day since we got our first glimpse of Pluto’s mountainous terrain from New Horizons but there’s already a 3D video, created by Mattias Malmer. Of course it’s not comprehensively accurate imagery of the region, since there was only that one perspective image to work from, but it gives a fascinating look at what the area might look like from multiple angles. Check it out above and let your Plutonian fantasies run wild (again!)

Pluto’s Ice Mountains Revealed in Stunning Detail

Enormous ice mountains discovered on Pluto

Enormous ice mountains discovered on Pluto. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

At 3 p.m. EDT today, July 15 2015, from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the New Horizons team revealed to the world the first high-resolution image acquired of the surface of Pluto. This was obtained during the historic July 14 flyby with New Horizons’ “Ralph” camera, and it’s our very first close-up view of this distant world’s fascinating, beautiful, and surprisingly crater-free surface! Of course more will be coming as the days, weeks, and months pass, and many further studies will be done to determine the nature of all of the features revealed, but for now – enjoy.

This is truly an amazing time in space exploration!

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Share the Pluto Love!

New Horizons image of Pluto the day before the flyby. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

New Horizons image of Pluto the day before the flyby. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

It’s happened! At 7:49 a.m. EDT (11:49 UTC) this morning, July 14 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft performed its close pass of Pluto and, fourteen minutes later, its moon Charon. While we won’t receive a signal from New Horizons until about 9 p.m. tonight (and image data from the flyby won’t arrive until July 15th) NASA did share this gorgeous image this morning just before the flyby. it was taken by New Horizons on July 13th and has a resolution of about 4 km (2.4 miles) per pixel, and shows the distant world in approximate true-color. It’s highly-publicized “heart” feature is seen front-and-center – proof that Pluto loves ya!

And, according to New Horizons PI Dr. Alan Stern, this is but a teaser for the “data waterfall” that’s to begin arriving tomorrow! What an amazing day for science.

“The New Horizons team is proud to have accomplished the first exploration of the Pluto system. This mission has inspired people across the world with the excitement of exploration and what humankind can achieve.”

– Dr. Alan Stern, New Horizons PI, SwRI

The New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins APL when the image above was revealed. (NASA TV)

The New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins APL when the image above was revealed. (NASA TV)

The spacecraft is now moving away from the Pluto system at over 30,000 mph. It will spend the next 16 months transmitting data from the flyby back to Earth so scientists can fill in the long-missing gaps on our knowledge of Pluto and its family of moons.

Check back at the New Horizons site for updates.

“It’s truly amazing that humankind can go out and explore these worlds.”
– Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager

Update: I had a chance to talk about Pluto with Nerdist.com writer Sarah Keartes – check out her article here.

Also, there was a funny segment by Stephen Colbert and Neil deGrasse Tyson (whom I do not completely agree with regarding Pluto) on the night of the flyby about these images of Pluto – check that out below!

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