Here is a Selection of Images from the Edge of the Solar System

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft completed its 14th July, 2015 fly-by of Pluto and signalled back to Earth just before 0200 UT on Wednesday 15th to tell the mission team and the world that the run had gone well.  The images have “surprised” scientists by revealing that Pluto has mountains 11,000 feet high which are relatively young at just 100 million years old.

We will be posting information and some of the best images here, so keep checking back.

Pluto and Charon imaged one day before fly-by

 

The interesting "heart" shape on Pluto at 2 days out. The feature has been named "Tombaugh Regio"

Charon, showing the dark area the team has called "Mordor"

First High Res Pluto Image - Ice Mountains.  Water Ice is about the only material  which can support mountains like this with Pluto's geology

Charon showing a depression with a peak in the middle (in the upper left corner of the inset). The image shows an area approximately 240 miles (390 kilometers) from top to bottom and was taken from a range of 49,000 miles (79,000 kilometers).

A view of Pluto and Charon as they would appear if placed slightly above Earth's surface and viewed from a great distance

In the “heart of Pluto,” in the western half of what mission scientists have informally named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), there is evidence of carbon monoxide ice. The concentration increases towards the centre of the contoured area

In the centre left of “Tombaugh Regio” - lies a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes.

Spectra from the "Ralph" instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface

Two of Pluto’s smaller and lesser-known satellites - Nix and Hydra - are shown here

A newly discovered mountain range lies near the south western margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio, situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain. This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) and received on Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible

 

Two full-frame images of Pluto and Charon which were collected separately during approach on July 13 and July 14, 2015. The relative reflectivity, size, separation, and orientations of Pluto and Charon are approximated and are shown in approximate true colour

A significantly improved image of Pluto published on 25th July, 2015

The atmosphere, imaged as New Horizons sped away from Pluto.  From the passage of sunlight and radio waves through the Plutonian "air" the air pressure was determined as only about 10 microbars at the surface. The other key detection was of hazes in the atmosphere. These are likely the consequence of high-up methane being broken apart and processed by sunlight into simple hydrocarbons like ethylene and acetylene, which then fall, cool and condense to form a mist of ice particles.

Possible nitrogen and carbon monoxide or methane ice flowing around the mountains and settling in craters

A 220-mile (350-km) wide view illustrating the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain, bright, smooth geologically young terrain, mountains and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges which resemble dunes. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 km) in size.

In the centre of this 300-mile (470-km) wide image is a large region of jumbled, broken terrain on the northwestern edge of the vast, icy plain informally called Sputnik Planum, to the right. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 km) in size.

Mosaic of high-resolution images sent back from Sept. 5 to 7, 2015. The image is dominated by the informally-named icy plain Sputnik Planum, the smooth, bright region across the centre. This image also features a tremendous variety of other landscapes surrounding Sputnik. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 km) in size, and the mosaic covers a region roughly 1,000 miles (1600 km) wide.

This synthetic perspective view shows what you would see if you were approximately 1,100 miles (1,800 km) above Pluto’s equatorial area, looking northeast over the dark, cratered, informally named Cthulhu Regio toward the bright, smooth, expanse of icy plains informally called Sputnik Planum. The entire expanse of terrain seen in this image is 1,100 miles (1,800 km) across.

This image of Charon was taken 10 hours before closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers).  Charon is 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in diameter and displays a surprisingly complex geological history, including tectonic fracturing, relatively smooth, fractured plains in the lower right, several enigmatic mountains surrounded by sunken terrain features on the right side and heavily cratered regions in the centre and upper left portion of the disk. There are also complex reflectivity patterns on Charon’s surface, including bright and dark crater rays, and the conspicuous dark north polar region at the top of the image. The smallest visible features are 2.9 miles 4.6 kilometers) in size.

Just 15 minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015 New Horizons looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) wide.

High-resolution image taken just before closest approach on July 14, 2015, revealing details down to scales of 270 meters. In this 75-mile (120-kilometer) section the textured surface of the plain surrounds two isolated ice mountains.

In this extended colour image rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colours on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).

The Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum: In this highest-resolution image from New Horizons, great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains.  The details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce the earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations.

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