15 minutes after it was approaching Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this type of sunset, icy mountains and flat plains, stretching ice along the horizon of Pluto.
According to NASA’s task, New Horizons swept past Pluto and its satellite system on July 14, following an automated procedure for standard fast data collection. Looking back at the dwarf planet, after approaching, in dim scattered sunlight through a hazy atmosphere, the spacecraft made one of the most beautiful photographs in space history: Pluto covered the Sun, creating a mysterious view of the tiny world of atmospheric aura.
Today, in the new images presented by the New Horizons team, even more exciting scenes may have been realized. Looking back, immediately after flying at a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 km), the Ralph / Multispectral Camera (MVIC) New Horizons enlarged Pluto in the crescent, through the atmospheric haze, revealing a very "arctic" mountain landscape.
“This image really makes you feel there, on Pluto, looking at the landscape,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons of the Southwestern Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “This image is also a scientific goldmine, revealing new details of Pluto’s atmosphere, mountains, glaciers and plains.” The fog is not talking about a frozen, static environment - there are some incredibly dynamic processes taking place with what we are just beginning to understand.
"In addition to visual stunnedness, these low-key haze speaks about the changing day-to-day weather on Pluto, as it does on Earth," said Will Grandi, leader of the New Horizons team at Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona.
Weather? Yes, the weather.
A closer look at the smooth expanses of Plateau satellite (right), located in the west (left) rocky mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) in height, including the informally called Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the horizon. The highlight emphasizes more than a dozen layers of haze in the rarefied, but stretched atmosphere of Pluto.
When we plunge into a huge mass of observations, gradually coming in from New Horizons after a close approach, we see Pluto, which is much more dynamic than we ever dreamed of. Before reaching the goal of New Horizons, astronomers knew that the dwarf planet possessed some kind of atmosphere, but seeing the surface of Pluto, the structure around the atmospheric cycle of the atmospheric cycle of exotic ice on the surface and in the atmosphere became apparent - this is akin to the Earth's hydrological cycle. Regarding the "new" surface of Pluto, showing the active movement of ice, like glaciers, allows us to suggest that the ice is replenished with precipitation, no one would have argued about this until July 14.
“We do not expect to find signs of the nitrogen glacial cycle on Pluto that exists in the cold conditions of a remote part of the solar system,” said Alan Howard, a team of geology, geophysics and images from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “Relying on dim sunlight, this equates to the hydrological cycle that feeds glaciers on Earth when water evaporates from the surface of the oceans, falls in the form of snow, and returns to the seas with an icy stream.”
“Pluto is remarkably similar to the Earth in this respect,” added Stern, “and no one could have predicted this.”
For more information on how these amazing images were made, see the New Horizons mission pages.