New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft have started arriving and they reveal a bewildering variety of surface features.
Some are which are majestic mountains and endless plains that are likely both made of ice.
“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.
“If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that’s what is actually there.”
The images show more detail of Pluto’s surface than ever before in high resolution. The images ashow the most heavily cratered — and thus oldest — terrain yet seen by New Horizons on Pluto next to the youngest, most crater-free icy plains.
New Horizons captured a trove of images and data during the flyby, but it will take a year for it to send all that information across the solar system for scientists to study.
In late October and early November, New Horizons is set to point itself toward its next destination: a small, icy body designated 2014 MU69, which it will study in 2019 if NASA approves an extension to the mission.