We have some amazing images coming in from New Horizons, and they are the highest resolution images we will see. But this is just the first! There will be a lot more coming. It would be great to post an image, but I won’t do that. Instead, watch this video. And I recommend watching it in full screen at full resolution.
We start off with a terrain that is very light and icy with some craters. But it appears that there’s a dark material in the craters. It appears it’s layered. Probably various ices. It then moves down into a badlands region, which wouldn’t look too out of place on Earth. Then it abruptly moves into a water ice region with polygonal shapes and what looks like a rippled terrain.
The surface of Pluto is absolutely fascinating. You can read the article here on New Horizons’ official page at NASA.
What do you think is the biggest science story of the year? 2015 isn’t over yet, but I think it’s safe to say that we have a very good candidate already.
My choice is New Horizons at the Pluto system. Pluto was expected to be a certain way, somewhat like Triton, but it turned out to be completely unique. It was unexpected. It’s likely to still be active, since there’s a huge area covered by ices, there are tall mountains, and the colouration is providing a lot of questions. One of the more recent pictures showed the atmosphere over a horizon that was lit by the sun, and the surface shows mountains. This is that image:
Click the image to see a larger version. Or go here to see the full sized image.
There are still many months of images to download from New Horizons, so we’ll get to see many more surprises over the next year or so.
So, what’s your choice for biggest science news of 2015?
The New Horizons mission never ceases to amaze me. The most recent release from NASA about the mission is a full colour full globe view of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon. What you’ll see is a massive canyon down the middle, a red polar region, and what fascinates me is the horizon. It’s not at all smooth, but it shows how varied the surface is. Take a look.
If that isn’t enough, check out this image of Pluto and Charon together in full colour. Just look at how much red there is. Incredible!
You can view the full images at the NASA story that I linked to above. However, these are pretty big images, so sorry if they take a while to load.
But they are amazing, aren’t they? It’s going to take a long time until we understand what’s going on there. How did they come to look like that? What processes were involved? And it seems that Pluto is likely to still be active. With so many more months of images and data to come in, we’re just going to have to settle for months of incredible views of Pluto and Charon.
It’s been close to two months since New Horizons flew past Pluto, and only recently has it entered into the data transfer stage of the mission. It’ll take months for the images to be sent back to Earth. There’s a lot to send, and the best has yet to come.
But we got to see something special recently. Here’s a very detailed image, a mosaic of high resolution images that shows half of one hemisphere very clearly. It brings up a lot of questions, as it’s extremely dynamic. There are so many different kinds of geological features, it’s going to take a very long time to unravel the history of what we see.
Amazing, isn’t it? Click on it to see a higher resolution image.
It’s been a while since I posted about the Pluto flyby of New Horizons. What’s making me write this post is an amazing video I saw of Pluto. It’s very short, so it won’t take up more than a few seconds of your time. Trust me, it looks great. In only 16 seconds, you will see 2 hours of images put together in a beautifully done animation.
This video was made by Bjorn Jonsson, and there are more videos on his Vimeo page. Here’s a quick video of Charon’s rotation.
And another of Pluto’s rotation.
Although these are short videos, a lot of work would be put into them. The frames would have to be aligned so that there’s no wobble and they’d also have to be scaled so they’re all exactly the same size. Any gaps could be filled in with computer animation, but everything you see in these videos is real. He did a wonderful job, I think.
The expectations of Pluto were that it was going to be geologically inactive, probably very icy with plenty of craters. As you’ve seen before, Pluto has a very unusual surface with a lot of variation. A closeup on the equatorial area along the edge of the bright heart-shaped region revealed something unexpected: mountains.
Due to the lack of craters in the area, it’s estimated that these mountains of ice are around 100 million years old. That is very young geologically. This implies that Pluto is geologically active, or was recently. And there’s no chance of this being from tidal forces, as Pluto and Charon are tidally locked.
On the topic of mountains, take a look at this closeup of Charon.
What is going on with that mountain in the top left of the inset? It’s in a depression. This has scientists scratching their heads, as this is highly unusual.
We’ve got so many mysteries already popping up, this is very exciting. I’m looking forward to more images.
Anyone have a logical explanation for the mountains on Pluto and Charon?
Not too long ago, New Horizons passed by Pluto. It’s done, but New Horizons is still busy at work. It’ll be busy for a while collecting data and images of Pluto, Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos. But Pluto is the star here, and what an incredible journey it’s been. To be honest, I feel kind of speechless about this.
Earlier, I was checking Facebook while I was on break at work, and up popped this incredible image. It was one of the last images taken of Pluto before the flyby began. It was the clearest picture we have yet to see of Pluto, and it’s so hard to put in words what I was thinking when I saw it. Wow. I think that’s the word. Wow. I couldn’t stop looking at it. I’ve now seen the image with my computer, and I still keep wanting to look at it. That is Pluto. Pluto!
I remember when New Horizons was launched. I was thinking that we’re finally going to see what Pluto looks like. I was hoping for something unique, something we’ve never seen before. I suspected it might look like Triton, considering it was a Kuiper Belt object. My thoughts about seeing Pluto felt kind of unreal. Like it was so far in the future, it was hard to imagine that moment. That moment has already passed, yet we haven’t seen the best images yet. Far from it. This latest image is pretty clear, and it shows a unique world like none we’ve ever seen before.
Say hello to Pluto.
Isn’t that incredible? Look at that huge bright area. And those dark regions. And you can see craters, complex features, and so much more. What are they? How were they created? Never mind that, just look at the image. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing images of Saturn’s unusual moon Hyperion, as well as the surface of Titan. But the anticipation of seeing Pluto was so great that the moment I saw this image, I said out loud with my coworker nearby, “Wow.”
Right now, New Horizons is taking images and data of Pluto and its moons, and is not communicating with Earth. In a few hours, it’ll send a message to Earth to signal that it has successfully completed its flyby. That moment will be a great relief, and will be the start of months of downloading from the probe and pure scientific research. And we’ll enjoy seeing the huge number of images that will have high enough resolution to see objects as small as one of the ponds in New York’s Central Park. That image further up this post is great, but we’ll be seeing far better images in the coming weeks. I can’t wait.
Congratulations NASA and the New Horizons team. This was worth the wait. Wow.
The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.