NASA Space Probe Releases 1st Set of High-Resolution Images of Pluto

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NASA just released new photos of Pluto taken from the closest approach of the New Horizons spacecraft, and they are likely to be the highest resolution images we’ll see of the icy world’s surface! These were taken from a distance of about 12,500 km, and have a resolution of a staggering 80 meters.
First, here’s an animation showing the location of the images taken, ending with a flyover of a strip about 80 kilometers across and 800 long. It’s amazing.
This shows the northwest edge of Sputnik Planum, the left lobe of the huge heart-shaped region on Pluto. There’s a lot to see here!
The scene almost looks like it could be a satellite shot of Earth, off the Greenland or Alaskan coast. There are three major differences, though: It was taken five billion kilometers from Earth, the frozen sea there is actually frozen nitrogen, and — perhaps most astonishingly — those mountains aren’t rock, they’re frozen water!
Pluto is so cold water ice is hard as rock, and can form mountains thousands of meters tall. The bright plain was probably lower elevation terrain which filled with nitrogen, which is much less rigid than water at these temperatures. It can flow like glaciers do on Earth. So what you’re seeing there is a shoreline! It really looks like one, too, with the nitrogen ice meeting the highlands at a “constant sea level”.
The ripples in the ice may be due to sublimation; the feeble sunlight causing the nitrogen to go directly from solid to gas. It almost looks like transverse dunes, though that seems really unlikely to my (admittedly unexpert) brain. I do love how that one segment of ice below center is heart-shaped: It’s like a mini version of the plain itself. A heart in a heart.
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