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Mountains on Pluto

Remember those days when Pluto was just a blip on a photographic plate, then merely a fuzzy set of dots on a Hubble telescope image?

No more.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for 15/1/21 featured this photo taken by the New Horizons probe 15 minutes after its closest approach to the (dwarf) planet when it was 18,000 kilometres away from the surface.

Some of the mountains on show are comparable in height to the highest on Earth but of course they are not composed of rock but most likely of ice. The plains below them may contain solid nitrogen or carbon dioxide.

Also visible above Pluto’s horizon is its tenuous atmosphere.

Pluto's Mountains

Pluto’s True Colours

From Astronomy Picture of the Day, 10/9/19.

Pluto, how it would appear to human eyes. Mostly brown, apparently.

Pluto in true colour

Charon Then, and Then Again

From Astronomy Picture of the Day for 6/7/2018, this is a picture of Pluto’s moon Charon (though which is primary and which satellite when one’s diameter is only twice the other’s is pushing it) taken by the New Horizons probe in its journey through Pluto’s system.

The inset shows the first ever indication of Charon’s existence – a grainy bump on an indistinct photograph from 40 years ago.

Charon

Fly Over Pluto and Charon

Videos made from actual New Horizons footage and digital models of the surfaces of Pluto and Charon are now on You Tube. (I got the steer from the Daily Galaxy.)

Pluto:-

Charon:-

Atmospheric Pluto

A stunning picture taken by the New Horizons probe of a backlit Pluto showing its hazy but stratified atmosphere appeared on Astronomy Picture of the Day on 9/6/16.

Pluto at Night

Charon Fly-over

Yet more fruit from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft’s visit to Pluto.

An astounding video of Pluto’s moon Charon.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day via You Tube:-

Pluto’s Volcanoes of Ice

From The Daily Galaxy 10/11/15. Pluto has ice volcanoes. (Some sort of false colouring here obviously.)

Pluto's Volcanoes

These two are called Wright Mons and Piccard Mons:-

Wright Mons and Piccard Mons

The ice may be a mixture of water ice, nitrogen, ammonia, or methane.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day 14/11/15 comes this photo of Wright Mons:-

Wright Mons

Pluto (and Charon) in Motion

From You Tube (via Astronomy Picture of the Day 6/10/15) this shows the (minor) planet and its moon orbiting their common centre of gravity before flying past and giving a view of Pluto -and its atmosphere – backlit by the sun.

Charon from New Horizons

Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday had a stunning view of Pluto’s moon Charon as taken by the New Horizons probe. The moon looks oddly lop-sided, probably due to the shadowing on its side pointing away from the sun:-

Charon

That’s a big fissure running right across its middle.

Pluto Flyby

It hasn’t taken NASA long to get this New Horizons flyby sequence of Pluto up on You Tube:-

And on Astronomy Picture of the Day on 17/7/15 was this photo of Pluto’s largest moon Charon.

Charon

Wonderful stuff.

Every single time spaceprobes have gone to somewhere as yet unexplored they have yielded unexpected results. This time the youth of Pluto’s surface was a surprise.

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