NASA is still analyzing and uploading some of the last shots their New Horizons spacecraft took of the dwarf planet, Pluto, and they are as awe-inspiring as ever.
The wealth of information New Horizons gathered during its spectacular fly-by of Pluto is still being pored over by NASA’s scientists. Today, NASA’s released a few more spectacular close-ups of the icy planetoid, including the region known informally as Cthulhu Regio.
Visible in the image at the top of this post (and in higher resolution in our gallery below), the Cthulhu Regio is the dark, cratered section near the bottom of the photo. Above it, that smooth icy plain is what’s known (for now) as Sputnik Planum, which I believe is also part of the now-famous “heart” on Pluto’s surface. I wouldn’t mind living in a place called Sputnik Planum – according to some, it may already be occupied.
“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” says said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern. “If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top.”
He has a point. The Pluto we’ve been lucky enough to see is a richly varied landscape, sometimes beautiful to look at.
Our gallery below includes more fresh photos of the planetoid.
Included in the gallery is an update on the New Horizons’ puzzling backlit photo, taken as the spacecraft was waving goodye, so to speak. Side by side, you’ll see the original photo – Pluto as a dark circle surrounded by fuzzy light, representing a significant atmosphere; next to it, a heavily processed photo, showing striations of gas above the surface. It offers a lot more detail, but the mystery of its atmosphere is not yet solved.