The New Horizons spacecraft has sent NASA some strange images.
It’s been nine months since NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft went zipping past Pluto, and the data continues to trickle in from that pass — including some very strange images.
The new images show fascinating craters on Pluto’s western Vega Terra region, creating a halo effect from the bright walls of the crater, which certainly stand out against the dark landscape in that region, according to a NASA statement.
One of the craters is huge — about 30 miles across, and can be seen in the bottom right of the above photo.
“The region is far west of the hemisphere NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft viewed during close approach last summer,” the statement reads. “The upper image – in black and white – sports several dozen “haloed” craters. The largest crater, at bottom-right, measures about 30 miles (50 kilometers) across. The craters’ bright walls and rims stand out from their dark floors and surrounding terrain, creating the halo effect.
“In the lower image, composition data from New Horizons’ Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) indicate a connection between the bright halos and distribution of methane ice, shown in false color as purple,” the statement continues. “The floors and terrain between craters show signs of water ice, colored in blue. 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.”
New Horizons will continue to send these images back to Earth. It’s not a fast process considering the data moves at speeds of 1 to 4 kilobits per second, a snail’s pace that explains why so much data has yet to come to us despite the fact that New Horizons visited Pluto all the way back on July 14.
New Horizons was launched in January 2006 and continues to fly deep into the outer reaches of our solar system.