Pluto’s icy mountains have a sequel. NASA's New Horizons mission has discovered a new, seemingly less high mountain range in the lower left edge of the most famous area of Pluto — the heart-shaped region known as the Tombo region.
The frozen peaks found are between half a mile and one mile (1–1.5 km), about the same size as the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. The mountains called “Norgay Montes”, which were discovered by the mission on July 15, resemble the Rocky Mountains in height.
The new area is located to the west of the region called “Sputnik Planum”. The peaks themselves lie at a distance of 68 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Norgay Montes. This newest image complements the previous relief image along the western edge of the Tombo region. "There is a strong difference in structure between the young frozen plains in the east and dark, highly craterized terrain to the west," said Jeff Moore, lead scientist at the New Horizons mission from the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "There is a complex interaction between bright and dark materials that we still cannot understand."
While the Sputnik Planum region is considered relatively young from a geological point of view, perhaps less than 100 million years old, a dark area probably has billions of years. Moore notes that bright sedimentary material appears to fill old craters.
This image was obtained using the LORRI tool (short for Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 km) and sent to Earth on July 20.