NASA has released some groundbreaking new images of the far-off dwarf planet, Pluto, after a successful flyby as part of its New Horizons space mission. Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and has since been a fascinating conundrum to astronomers everywhere. The images of the dwarf planet, caught by New Horizons late Tuesday night, has NASA in a celebratory uproar. The discovery of a mountain range, which rises over 10,000 feet above Pluto’s surface, is said to prove that there is much to learn about its geology; water being at the top of the discovery list.
Alan Stern, a primary investigator with New Horizons, told the press that it can be hypothesized that the bedrock that created this range of mountains must contain an abundance of water (H2O). Water, on any planet, has not only been a great indicator of possible life but also provides clues into how the solar system came to be, according to scientists. A key component, according to a press conference held on Wednesday afternoon, is that scientists believe the mountains to be made completely of ice. Due to Pluto’s temperatures, the ice is strong enough to sustain the 10,000-feet high mountains, according to one of NASA’s lead scientists, John Spencer. The dwarf planet’s new images have given some much-appreciated insight after the flyby mission.
In addition to the images of Pluto’s mountains, NASA released images of the Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. The images caught of Charon also showed some cliff ranges that span an approximate 600 miles. The newly released images of Pluto, taken during NASA’s flyby mission on Tuesday, was the closest set of pictures ever taken of the icy dwarf planet. The photo’s were captured while passing approximately 7,750 miles from Pluto’s surface. Once the images were taken, New Horizons immediately contacted Earth, three billion miles away, to share this discovery.
Space fanatics have been glued to NASA’s news coverage, awaiting more images and news about Pluto and its moon. New Horizons, the probe that caught the images, is about the size of a grand piano and has traveled over nine years to make the three billion mile trek to capture Pluto and its satellites. After capturing these new, close-up photos, NASA is also interested in discovering possible ice volcanoes and geysers from the data being sent back from the space probe.
All of the excitement over this discovery comes from the fact that Earth now has a solid set of clues into how planets are formed. In addition, many scientists believe that with more pictures of this nature, they can look into the secrets of life itself from a scientific perspective. Many news watchers are simply astounded; not by Pluto’s pictures themselves, but the journey it took to capture such images. Nine years and three billion miles seem impossible for many humans to comprehend. Even so, the space world is more than elated with the discovery and thankful that NASA released new images of Pluto after the New Horizons flyby mission.
By Danyol Jaye
Edited By Leigh Haugh
Fox News–NASA Releases First Pluto Flyby Images
Computer World–‘Mind Blowing’ Images Show Pluto May Be Active
NY Times–Pluto’s Portrait From New Horizons: Ice Mountains and No Craters
Feature Photo Courtesy of T. Arai-NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License