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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!

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.

Pluto's moon Charon, imaged by New Horizons on July 14, 2015. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Pluto’s moon Charon, imaged by New Horizons on July 13, 2015. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Also as a smaller treat, the first resolved image of Pluto’s smaller moon Hydra was revealed, with a resolution of 2 miles/pixel:

First resolved image of Hydra

First resolved image of Hydra

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!

Detail of Charon’s surface from New Horizons’ flyby on July 14, 2015. (NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI)

Detail of Charon’s surface from New Horizons’ flyby on July 14, 2015. (NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI)

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!

Here's Principal Investigator Alan Stern seeing these images when they were coming in!

Here’s Principal Investigator Alan Stern seeing these images when they were coming in!

Follow the latest news from the New Horizons mission here.

Source and credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on July 15, 2015, in Dwarf Planets, Pluto and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Francesca Smith

    Proud thoughts are swimming in my mind. It is wonderful, for I have only ever seen drawings or artists impressions of Pluto.

    Liked by 1 person

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