From the outer fringes of the solar system, tiny Pluto looms large in a newly released NASA video that reveals astonishing detail from the dwarf planet.
The space agency used data collected by the New Horizons spacecraft during its 2015 flyby of Pluto to create the footage of its rugged mountain ranges and icy plains.
“This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia, ” NASA said in a statement.
“The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right.
“The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra – which exhibits deep and wide pits – before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere,” NASA said.
Two years ago, New Horizons sent home the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons, including its largest – Charon.
To emphasize Pluto’s topography, the dwarf planet’s relief is exaggerated by a factor of two to three times, while the surface colors of Pluto and Charon also are enhanced in the video, NASA said.
“The complexity of the Pluto system — from its geology to its satellite system to its atmosphere — has been beyond our wildest imagination,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.
“Everywhere we turn are new mysteries. These new maps from the landmark exploration of Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission in 2015 will help unravel these mysteries and are for everyone to enjoy.”
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