Stunning New Image of Pluto’s North Pole Released

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Enhanced color, medium-resolution image of Pluto’s North Pole and Environs acquired by New Horizon’s Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). North is at the top, maximum east-west expanse approximately 1,200 km (Image resolution: 0.68 km/pixel)

On July 14 of last year, at a distance of 33,970 km, just prior to its closest approach to Pluto, the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) aboard New Horizons acquired this stunning, enhanced-color view of Pluto’s North Pole. Released last Thursday, February 25, the image shows the frozen canyons, details, diversity and unusual colors of the region.

Named in honor of Percival Lowell, the founder of Lowell Observatory (Flagstaff, Arizona), the site where Clyde Tombaugh discovered the frozen world 86 years ago, February 18, 1930 (anniversary 10 days ago), Lowell Regio is home to the long canyons that run vertically across the image. The widest of the canyons appear yellow, are about 75 kilometers wide and run close to the north pole. Presenting in green, lesser canyons crisscross the image, running east and west and are approximately 10 kilometers wide. Extending the entire length of the canyon floor, a shallow, winding valley presents as a light, powder-blue.

Although the colors in this image are real, they are unusual and are enhanced to illustrate subtleties in the terrain, its details and composition. High elevations present in a distinctive yellow, not seen elsewhere on Pluto.  This fades to a uniform bluish-gray at lower elevations and latitudes. New Horizons’ infrared measurements reveal abundant methane ice across Lowell Regio with a paucity of nitrogen ice.

Said Will Grundy, New Horizons composition team lead from Lowell Observatory

“One possibility is that the yellow terrains may correspond to older methane deposits that have been more processed by solar radiation than the bluer terrain“.

Original, unmarked image can be found here.

Full NASA Pres Release here.

Related articles found here and here.

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An index of all articles in this blog can be found here.

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