NASA image: Pluto's haze in bands of blue

January 18, 2016
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This processed image is the highest-resolution color look yet at the haze layers in Pluto's atmosphere. Shown in approximate true color, the picture is constructed from a mosaic of four panchromatic images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) splashed with Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) four-color filter data, all acquired by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. The resolution is 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel; the sun illuminates the scene from the right.

Scientists believe the haze is a resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules in Pluto's atmosphere, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene.  These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles, a fraction of a micrometer in size, and scatter sunlight to make the bright blue haze seen in this image.

As they settle down through the atmosphere, the haze particles form numerous intricate, horizontal layers, some extending for hundreds of miles around Pluto. The haze layers extend to altitudes of over 120 miles (200 kilometers).

Adding to the stark beauty of this image are mountains on Pluto's limb (on the right, near the 4 o'clock position), surface features just within the limb to the right, and crepuscular rays (dark finger-like shadows to the left) extending from Pluto's topographic features. 

Explore further: NASA image: Pluto's Wright Mons in color

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Wullum
5 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2016
Incredibly beautiful! Thanks for sharing!
Steelwolf
not rated yet Jan 24, 2016
So, the photo-chemical smog would tend to keep the surface a very slight amount cooler by reflecting the light, yet would also subsequently help warm the planet by accumulating heat from these bounce encounters of reflection, the colors of the photo-produced chemicals, plus refraction could bring light down that normally would not hit. Very fun, but is also very beautiful as well. I am sure there is a lot to learn from all of these. We learned a LOT from Triton, but this is even colder and no gas giant nearby to lend a bit of heat, however slight.

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