NASA video shows Pluto's mountains and plains, and it's pretty incredible

Cesar Mills
July 17, 2017

The video continues over the western margin of Sputnik where there is a very dark place called Cthulhu Macula, a cratered terrain. Viewers then get to see the planet's mountain ranges, the highlands of Voyager Terra, and Pioneer Terra. It then moves over the deep, wide canyon of Serenity Chasma.

In both of them, topographic relief has been exaggerated by two to three times, and surface colors have been enhanced, to highlight topography and detail, NASA officials said.

Digital mapping and rendering were performed by Paul Schenk and John Blackwell of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. Pluto's giant, informally named Sputnik Planitia glacier - the left half of Pluto's signature "heart" feature - is at the center of this map.

NASA has created a stunning flyover video of Pluto, two years after the New Horizons mission sent its historic images of the planet back to Earth. The spacecraft also collected other data, which helped in understanding the mysterious worlds that exists on the outer frontier of our solar system. NASA has unveiled a set of detailed, high-quality global maps of Pluto and Charon.

"Everywhere we turn are new mysteries", says Alan Stern, the principle investigator for New Horizons. "Fortunately, now we know how to do that and what new instruments to bring to bear".

NASA's New Horizons mission has been instrumental in building knowledge about Pluto.

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Both flyovers depict only the encounter hemispheres observed by New Horizons in high resolution.

The model shows off Pluto's icy plains and mountain ranges, showing its remarkable terrain in stunning detail. The flyover concludes at Tartarus Dorsa. All the names of Pluto and Charon are informal and pull from science fiction and fantasy sources like "Star Trek" and "Lord of the Rings".

First, New Horizons made an encounter with Jupiter on 2007. Here's another NASA statement on the spacecraft's next target.

Combined, the pre-positioned mobile telescopes captured more than 100,000 images of the occultation star that can be used to assess the environment around this Kuiper Belt object (KBO). In October 2016, New Horizon recorded the last data from Pluto. But after years of debate, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to the rank of a dwarf planet in 2006, reducing the total number of planets in the solar system to eight.

More data are on the way, with additional occultations of MU69 occurring on July 10 and July 17.

The New Horizons probe remains on an extended mission into the Kuiper Belt, a distant region made up of icy celestial bodies, including dwarf planets like Pluto and comets.

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