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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Full-On Pluto

By Phil Plait

While I’m waiting for a press conference on Pluto in a couple of hours (18:00 UTC), I thought I’d show you this beautiful image of Pluto’s face released by NASA this morning. It’s a composite of high-resolution data from the black-and-white (well, grayscale) LORRI camera combined with color data from the Ralph camera.

The colors have been enhanced to bring out overall patterns and regional differences. The images were taken on July 14, when New Horizons was 450,000 kilometers from Pluto—not much farther than the Moon is from Earth!

Several things strike me right away. We see lots of craters, many of which look eroded from time. It looks like there are faults or canyons running here and there across the surface. Also, some of the colors appear as “streaks,” making them look wind-blown or the result of some kind of fluid flow.

Having said that, I am totally guessing here. We must have a care not to overinterpret low-res data like this! Also, I’m no expert, but I hope that the experts today will comment on some of these features. No doubt more detailed images will be released soon, so stay tuned!

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