Recent photos from NASA's New Horizons (New Horizons) spacecraft present a grandiose, complex picture of craters adjacent to each other, ice flows of mountains, valleys and dunes.
“Pluto shows us a variety of forms and complexity of tectonic processes, surpassing everything that we have seen before in the solar system,” says Alan Stern of the South-West Research Institute in Colorado.
“If an artist depicted Pluto like that before we flew there, I would say that this is overkill, but there it really is.”
New surface details
Interrupting the collection of data on particles, the solar wind and cosmic dust, “New Horizons” continued to send photos taken during the flight over Pluto on July 14.
The resolution of images released this week is up to 440 yards (400 meters) per pixel, and unfolds a chaotic kaleidoscope, in which many mysteries for scientists lurk.
The report states that there may be dunes on Pluto: the influx of nitrogenous ice is slipping from the mountains to the plains, cutting through a network of ravines. In the segments that the scientists were able to see, the old terrain, dotted with craters and chaotic heaps from the mountains, borders on new flat ice plains. “Pluto’s surface is as hard as Mars’s,” said Jeff Moore, head of geology, geophysics and cartography (GGI) at NASA at Ames Research Center in California. “Pile-ups of mountains can turn out to be huge chunks of ice moving in the vast deposits of softer frozen nitrogen in the region, informally called the plain Sputnik Planum.”
The Planum Satellite plain is located on the left side of the Tombo region, a heart-shaped region first seen when New Horizons first approached a dwarf planet. It was one of the first structures that we were able to examine on Pluto, and only now it seemed to us in detail from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
Along the border of the Sputnik Planum plain we see what looks like dark dunes formed by the wind - a surprise for the world with such a rarefied atmosphere, says the report.
“The dunes on Pluto — if they are dunes — are unheard of because the current atmosphere of Pluto is extremely thin,” said William B. McKinnon, GGI deputy head of the University of Washington at St. Louis. “Or earlier, Pluto had a denser atmosphere, or there are some other processes that we don’t know about. This is a puzzle. ”
Sun Behind Pluto
Researchers also received new data on the atmosphere of Pluto. When the probe shot Pluto against the Sun, it formed a glowing halo around the planet. It turned out that it has more layers than originally intended, and a soft atmospheric glow illuminates the night side before dawn and after sunset.
“This twilight landscape is an amazing gift presented to us by Pluto,” said John Spencer, deputy head of the GGI department, also at the Southeast Research Institute in Colorado. “Now we can study geology on the ground, which we never hoped to see before.”
“New Horizons” continues to send pictures and data from its flight, meanwhile going further: now it is 43 million miles (63 million kilometers) from Pluto and 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) from Earth.
On Friday, September 11, detailed photos of the satellites of Pluto satellites taken during the passage, and giving some idea of the geological torture suffered by Charon in the past, were published. Charon, like Pluto, was far from as simple as it seemed.