An amazing new photo of Pluto has revealed some incredible new detail about the dwarf planet.
NASA has released an amazing new image from Pluto that the agency has described as the dwarf planet’s “twilight zone.”
The new image shows mountains, plains made of nitrogen ice and what appears to be a large cloud in the sky, according to a NASA statement.
The New Horizons spacecrafta ctually captured the image a long time ago — on July 14, 2015, when it made its dramatic flyby of the dwarf planet. Ever since then, data and images have been coming in at a trickle, and the latest photo is a doozy.
The backlit twilight view shows sunlight filtering through the layers of Pluto’s atmosphere, lighting up geological features like a mountain range and a vast plain.
The image also captures what looks like a low-lying cloud in the atmosphere of Pluto, which would be the only one identified through New Horizons imagery. The cloud would likely be made of methane.
On the night side of Pluto, the topography appears to be rugged with broad valleys and sharp peaks, NASA stated.
The photo was taken about 19 minutes after Pluto’s closest approach, when it was just 13,400 miles from the dwarf planet. At its closest, it was just 7,800 miles from the surface.
“The inset at top right shows a detail of Pluto’s crescent, including an intriguing bright wisp (near the center) measuring tens of miles across that may be a discreet, low-lying cloud in Pluto’s atmosphere; if so, it would be the only one yet identified in New Horizons imagery,” the statement reads. “This cloud – if that’s what it is – is visible for the same reason the haze layers are so bright: illumination from the sunlight grazing Pluto’s surface at a low angle. Atmospheric models suggest that methane clouds can occasionally form in Pluto’s atmosphere. The scene in this inset is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across.
“The inset at bottom right shows more detail on the night side of Pluto,” it continues. “This terrain can be seen because it is illuminated from behind by hazes that silhouette the limb. The topography here appears quite rugged, and broad valleys and sharp peaks with relief totaling 3 miles (5 kilometers) are apparent. This image, made from closer range, is much better than the lower-resolution images of this same terrain taken several days before closest approach. These silhouetted terrains therefore act as a useful ‘anchor point,’ giving New Horizons scientists a rare, detailed glimpse at the lay of the land in this mysterious part of Pluto seen at high resolution only in twilight. The scene in this inset is 460 miles (750 kilometers) wide.”
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