Pluto Probe: NASA Releases Sharpest Pictures Again

High resolution and stunning photos of Sputnik Planum region of Pluto were revealed again from the departing spacecraft just 15 minutes before the spacecraft zoomed past the planet. Alan Stern, the principal investigator of New Horizons, stated that these new images showing Pluto’s geology are super high resolution and breathtaking. Nothing of the same quality was available for Mars or Venus till decades after their flybys, but Pluto already has it among the craters, ice fields, and mountains. This has happened within five months following the flyby. The science that can be done with these images remains unbelievable, he added.

These images are a part of the planet’s 50 mile wide strip that starts at its horizon that stretches across catered terrain, the al-Idrisi mountains. It the shoreline like a boundary that lies between the mountains and Sputnik Planum, the heart shaped region and on the icy plains.

These pictures were captured by LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) of New Horizons. The instrument is at a range of 10,000 miles from the surface of Pluto. These pictures are around six times sharper than the previous photos than the previous photos that are used to create a global map of the planet and assuring stunning new views in the coming days.

One of the photos shows dune like features of the Sputnik Planum region of the planet and the intersection with the mountainous land. John Spencer, a science team member of the New Horizons, states that Sputnik Planum, the mountains bordering looks quite stunning at this resolution. The new details that were revealed, especially the crumpled ridges that surround several mountains reinforce the earlier impression that the mountains are nothing but huge blocks of ice that has tumbled and somehow moved to their current locations.

Another frame shows huge craters in extraordinary detail showing dark layers and regions that seem to have been filled by transported ice. Going by another shot, the evidence of faulting as well as erosion in the mountain region called “the Badlands” is evident.

The Director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, stated that the photos demonstrate the power of the robotic planetary voyagers to return the intriguing information to scientists here on Earth.

He stated that the New Horizons spacecraft thrilled them during the July flyby with images of Pluto that were very close. As the spacecraft sends the images in its memory back to them, they continue to be amazed, he added. Pluto is over 3 billion miles far, and the modest power of the radio transmitter of the New Horizon will take 16 months for the spacecraft to beam all the data that has been recorded during the flyby that took place in July last year.

It is expected that more high resolution images will be sent in a few days.

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