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!
In addition to the icy mountains of Pluto, New Horizons returned a high-res image of Charon acquired the day before the flyby. It also reveals a surprisingly youthful surface, with cliffs, chasms, dark “stains” and bright reflective regions.
Also as a smaller treat, the first resolved image of Pluto’s smaller moon Hydra was revealed, with a resolution of 2 miles/pixel:
UPDATE 7/16: Here’s our first close-up (but heavily-compressed) detail of Charon, showing what resembles a “mountain-in-a-moat” (upper left in detail.) Nobody’s storming that stronghold!
From a newly-posted NASA news release:
The image shows an area approximately 200 miles (300 kilometers) from top to bottom, including few visible craters. “The most intriguing feature is a large mountain sitting in a moat,” said Jeff Moore with NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, who leads New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team. “This is a feature that has geologists stunned and stumped.”
So as one of the first humans in history to see these worlds close up, what do you think? Is Pluto at all what you envisioned? More? Less? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Follow the latest news from the New Horizons mission here.
Source and credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI