NASA has released new close-up images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft, revealing intricate surface features in striking clarity.
The pictures show old, heavily cratered terrain as well as younger, crater-free icy plains.
“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.
“If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that’s what is actually there.”
“The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars,” says Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
“The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum.”