Pluto is the gift that keeps on giving as more photos from the distant dwarf planet continue to roll in from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.
The first hi-res color shot of the planet, a strange image of Pluto’s rippled, “snakeskin” surface and a close-up of a couple of ice mountains were issued Thursday.
In the color image of the entire planet, Pluto’s surface sports a remarkable range of subtle colors, enhanced in this view to a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges and deep reds, NASA said. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a complex geological and climatological story that scientists have only just begun to decode.
Speaking about the “snakeskin” region (below), “it’s a unique and perplexing landscape stretching over hundreds of miles,” said William McKinnon from Washington University in St. Louis.
It captures a vast rippling landscape of strange, aligned linear ridges that “astonished” New Horizons team members, according to NASA.
“It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology,” McKinnon said in a statement. “This’ll really take time to figure out; maybe it’s some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto’s faint sunlight.”
In the other photo, a textured surface of the plain surrounds two isolated ice mountains.
The New Horizons spacecraft will continue to send data and photos for at least the next year. It will continue its mission and travel through the Kuiper Belt to research other objects scientists want to study.
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