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Cool image time! The first of what will likely be weekly image releases for the next few months from New Horizons was made public today, and shows Pluto’s surface to be incredibly complex and confusing.
New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity. “Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. “If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that’s what is actually there.”
The image above only shows one cropped section. Make sure you look at the full image. In the section I’ve cropped we can see nitrogen ice flowing around chunks of some darker harder material, probably water ice. On the left, near the small crater, is what appears to be a canyon formed by flowing liquid. Other images show what appear to be dunes!
It appears, as is typical of scientific exploration, that we are going to be left with more questions from the New Horizons’ data than we had before the fly-by occurred.