New Horizons color images reveal two distinct faces of Pluto

New Horizons color images reveal two distinct faces of Pluto
New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced.

New color images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced. Each of the spots is about 300 miles (480 kilometers) in diameter, with a surface area that's roughly the size of the state of Missouri.

Scientists have yet to see anything quite like the dark spots; their presence has piqued the interest of the New Horizons science team, due to the remarkable consistency in their spacing and size. While the origin of the spots is a mystery for now, the answer may be revealed as the spacecraft continues its approach to the mysterious . "It's a real puzzle—we don't know what the spots are, and we can't wait to find out," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder. "Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon."

New Horizons team members combined black-and-white images of Pluto and Charon from the spacecraft's Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with lower-resolution color data from the Ralph instrument to produce these views. We see the planet and its largest moon in approximately true color, that is, the way they would appear if you were riding on the New Horizons spacecraft. About half of Pluto is imaged, which means features shown near the bottom of the dwarf planet are at approximately at the equatorial line.

New Horizons color images reveal two distinct faces of Pluto
New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced.

Instruments Prepare to Search for Clouds in Pluto's Atmosphere

If Pluto has clouds, New Horizons can detect them. Both the high-resolution LORRI imager and the Ralph color imager will be used to look for clouds across the face of Pluto during its approach and departure from the planet.

"We're looking for clouds in our images using a number of techniques," said science team postdoc Kelsi Singer of the Southwest Research Institute, "If we find , their presence will allow us to track the speeds and directions of Pluto's winds."

New Horizons color images reveal two distinct faces of Pluto
New color images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show two very different faces of the mysterious dwarf planet, one with a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced.

Explore further

New Horizons spacecraft stays the course to Pluto

Citation: New Horizons color images reveal two distinct faces of Pluto (2015, July 3) retrieved 18 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-07-horizons-images-reveal-distinct-pluto.html
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Jul 03, 2015
We see the planet and its largest moon in approximately true color

This is just great, can't wait to see the 1st close-up image of this jewel..

Jul 03, 2015
One intriguing fact is that pluto is not teal-green as it's commonly been depicted.

Jul 03, 2015
@richardwenzel987
I thought those spots were deconvolution artifacts...
Image processing was pretty problematic when the dwarf planet was less than 50 pixels, it was then at over 50 million kilometers. Earlier articles had warning about deconvolution because it presented an oddly shaped Pluto. http://pluto.jhua...20150611 As new Horizons get closer (today we are going to be at less than 13 million kilometers), it is possible to download the raw images and, zooming in, look at the unprocessed features. Since its complete sidereal rotation takes around 6.4 days, I suggest comparing images that are 3 days apart so you can see both sides; like these two for example: http://pluto.jhua...ci_2.jpg , http://pluto.jhua...ci_1.jpg

Jul 03, 2015
@Eika
One intriguing fact is that pluto is not teal-green as it's commonly been depicted.
I never heard or read such depiction before, what is the source of this depiction?

Jul 04, 2015
@Eika
One intriguing fact is that pluto is not teal-green as it's commonly been depicted.
I never heard or read such depiction before, what is the source of this depiction?


He's sort of right on this one. Here's a Google image search for "planet pluto" only counting images that are at least three years old: https://www.googl...et+pluto

The images are pretty evenly split between a reddish-brown and a bluish or greenish grey.

Jul 08, 2015
The images are pretty evenly split between a reddish-brown and a bluish or greenish grey.


The first-ever photograph of pluto through a telescope was a black & white shot, and the person who developed it basically decided that it was blue because it was so far away they figured it was like Neptune. Then artists ever since have preferred to draw it more mint or alien green because nothing really was known of it. Even the Hubble photos were colored blue because of it.

Jul 09, 2015
The first-ever photograph of pluto through a telescope was a black & white shot, and the person who developed it basically decided that it was blue because it was so far away they figured it was like Neptune. Then artists ever since have preferred to draw it more mint or alien green because nothing really was known of it. Even the Hubble photos were colored blue because of it.
If these depictions were merely artistic interpretations and were not based on scientific observations, wouldn't you agree that there is nothing quote "intriguing" about the that?

Jul 15, 2015

He's sort of right on this one. Here's a Google image search for "planet pluto" only counting images that are at least three years old: https://www.googl...et+pluto

The images are pretty evenly split between a reddish-brown and a bluish or greenish grey.


Wonderful. The internet echo chamber is now valid data simply because it exists. If one idiot with a grapefruit for a brain does it because (s)he thinks it's pretty and 1,000,000 idiots copy it, and that equals the number of reasoned images (the red-brown ones), that means there was a difference of opinion? That we should address why a probe doesn't match the fabricated data?


Jul 22, 2015

If one idiot with a grapefruit for a brain does it because (s)he thinks it's pretty and 1,000,000 idiots copy it, and that equals the number of reasoned images (the red-brown ones), that means there was a difference of opinion?


Well, yeah. If 1,000,000 idiots think something, then they have a different opinion than the well reasoned people. There's a difference of opinion over evolution and whether the Earth is over 6,000 years old too. Even though I think people on a certain side of each of those opinions are idiotic, I still have to recognize that there is a difference of opinion.

That we should address why a probe doesn't match the fabricated data?


Eikka simply said that it was commonly depicted as a teal-green. As others have said, those were artists' depictions. The vast majority of people don't read up on planetary science and would not be surprised at all to learn Pluto was blue, green, orange, white, or black.

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