the final frontier

This Is What Pluto Looks Like, Up Close

NASA has released the “first and best” images the New Horizons spacecraft was able to take of Pluto during its flyby of the dwarf planet in July, all captured by the spacecraft during its closest approach. In the images, you can see the planet’s various chilly terrains and a “breathtaking, super-high resolution window into Pluto’s geology” — so high-resolution, in fact, that features as small as half a city block can be seen. This shot, for instance, shows the “Mountainous Shoreline of Sputnik Planum” which is where “great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together”:

This image “shows how erosion and faulting have sculpted this portion of Pluto’s icy crust into rugged badlands topography”:

If you’re not overwhelmed with this side of Pluto, don’t worry, because scientists totally are. According to New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, “Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there already — down among the craters, mountains and ice fields — less than five months after flyby. The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable.” 

And there are more images of Pluto’s topography on the way, both in the form of further releases from NASA, and also because New Horizons is still transmitting its low-speed data from the flyby back to Earth. Watch a video tour of a 50-mile strip of the dwarf planet below:

This Is What Pluto Looks Like, Up Close