A Few Hours From Pluto

New Horizons is flying past Pluto in only a few hours. We’ve been receiving more images, though they will continue to be scant over the coming days. You see, as it’s passing Pluto, the camera will be focused on it and Charon, which means that the high gain antenna will not be pointed toward Earth. We have to wait for the good pictures.

However, we do have some new images. Here is the latest for Pluto.

Pluto on July 12, 2015.
Pluto on July 12, 2015.

As you can see, there are craters, the dark regions around the equator, and guess what? An ice cap! That’s right, Pluto has an ice cap of nitrogen and methane. That was predicted, and it seems it was correct. Also, the diameter has been discovered to be 2,370 km, which is larger than thought. In fact, it turns it out it’s larger than Eris. Pluto is the largest Kuiper belt object that we know of. One thing that’s remarkable to me, though, is the mottled surface. It looks a lot like Triton in that respect. You can also see the bright area on the left side is rotating into view. It’s going to be the focus of the high resolution images.

On to Charon, which I have neglected to talk about.  Here’s the latest from Pluto’s largest moon.

Charon on July 12, 2015.
Charon on July 12, 2015.

There’s an obvious crater in this image, and the pole is dark. I wonder why. But to the right of the bright crater is what looks like a chasm. This chasm is larger than the Grand Canyon.

So far, Charon looks like it could be found around a planet like Saturn with its chasm and grey appearance. We’ll see how it looks with higher resolution images in the coming days and weeks. Pluto, on the other hand, looks like it could be a cousin of Triton’s. Very interesting.

What’s surprised you so far about Pluto and Charon?

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