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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Pluto's Geology, color-coded

Pluto's Geology, color-coded

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, February 16, 2016/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, environment

                                  Ice Mountains and Plains, Pluto (credit: New Horizons)

For a dwarf planet from the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system, Pluto certainly has strange and amazing geology. New maps of its landforms and geomorphology, created from images captured by the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew by the frozen world, are remarkable to say the least.    

According to their announcement, the New Horizons scientists have developed a color-coded map covering a portion of Pluto’s surface 1,290 miles from top to bottom including the vast nitnogen-ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum.


                                Pluto Landforms Mapped  (credit: New Horizons)

The map's key is overlaid by colors representing different geological features. Each landform is defined by its texture and morphology such as smooth, pitted, craggy, hummocky or ridged. The new map was imaged at a resolution of ~1,050 feet per pixel or better.


                                   Pluto Geomorphology Color Codes  (credit: New Horizons)

In describing the color-key, the New Horizons team indicated:

"the black lines represent troughs marking the boundaries of cellular regions in the nitrogen ice, the purple units represents the chaotic, blocky mountain ranges that line Sputnik’s western border, and the pink units represents the scattered, floating hills at its eastern edge. A potential cryo-volcano, informally named Wright Mons, is mapped in red in the corner of the map and rugged highlands are mapped in dark brown along the western edge, pockmarked by many large impact craters, shown in yellow."

Only a fraction of the New Horizons data gathered by its instruments has been retreived so far to be analyzed. It's not hard to imagine more amazing discoveries await to be seen at Pluto.



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