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Cool image time! The New Horizons’ science team on Thursday released a new image, showing a remarkable frozen pond on Pluto. As they note:
“In addition to this possible former lake, we also see evidence of channels that may also have carried liquids in Pluto’s past,” said Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator of New Horizons and lead author of a scientific paper on the topic submitted to the journal Icarus.
This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planum. Captured by the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, the image shows details as small as about 430 feet (130 meters). At its widest point the possible lake appears to be about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.
I have not posted the image here, because I have already posted this image on Behind the Black, back on October 6, 2015, in which I wrote in part,
The image shows what looks like an enclosed lake of some material, probably nitrogen, with the bedrock entrapping it solid ice. In addition, as you move away from the shore and head uphill it looks like you travel across several geological layers made of different materials. Figuring out how they formed in this way could probably keep a geologist busy for his or her entire life.
I had also then noted how I expected the scientists would be “drooling” over this image, and that I expected a full press release on it at some point. It took six months, but here we are.