I'm officially placing Pluto back in its rightful place in my universe's solar system, I don't care what the International Astronomical Union says! NASA's New Horizons team has just presented its first research paper on its spectacular findings so far of the icy dwarf planet spinning at the far fringes of our cosmic neighborhood.
Appearing as the triumphant cover story for the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Science, the report, “The Pluto System: Initial Results From its Exploration by New Horizons,” was led by mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, almost exactly three months after NASA’s historic exploration of the Pluto system in July. Along with the detailed science paper, NASA released a new color image of Pluto that I believe is the most stunning yet, showing its breathtaking, variegated surface features of wide ice plains, impressive impact craters and jagged mountain ranges.
“The Pluto system surprised us in many ways, most notably teaching us that small planets can remain active billions of years after their formation,” said Stern. “We were also taught important lessons by the degree of geological complexity that both Pluto and its large moon Charon display.”
This sensational shot was taken during the monumental July 14 flyby at an altitude of 7,750 miles and combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC).
“The New Horizons mission completes our initial reconnaissance of the solar system, giving humanity our first look at this fascinating world and its system of moons,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “New Horizons is not only writing the textbook on the Pluto system, it’s serving to inspire current and future generations to keep exploring—to keep searching for what’s beyond the next hill.”
(Via NASA/New Horizons)