NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has spotted a cluster of craters in a region informally known as Vega Terra on Pluto that have been dubbed ‘halo’ craters because of their appearance.
The halo craters appear to measure up to 50 kilometers in diameter. The term ‘Halo craters’ is given because of the formed bright walls of the craters which may have been formed by methane ice and water ice.
The halos represent just the latest in the multitude of puzzles Pluto offers scientists.
“Exactly why the bright methane ice settles on these crater rims and walls is a mystery; also puzzling is why this same effect doesn’t occur broadly across Pluto,” said NASA in a press release.
The black-and-white image shows several dozen halos, imaged by the New Horizons spacecraft during its Pluto flyby last summer.
At the bottom right of the image is the largest halo crater, measuring almost 30 miles wide. All of the halos appear to glow in the image, a result of the bright ice resting on the dark surface.
The brighter purples is an indicator of bright methane ice. The crater floors and surrounding terrain show signs of water ice, as seen in blue.
Scientists are hoping additional images and data can shed light on this area. But for now, scientists can only gaze upon the images and wonder what had to happen to create the amazing halo craters on the dwarf planet.