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July 11, 2015

Pluto’s latest photo shows geologic features

by John_A

As the New Horizons probe gets closer to Pluto, the pictures its cameras capture also get clearer. Take for example the black-and-white image above: it’s no longer just a blob or an extremely blurry circle. Sure, it’s not as sharp as we’d all like it to be (pssst, you’ll only have to wait a few more days for those pics), but its details are pronounced enough to show the dwarf planet’s geology. What you can see here is the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon. It was taken on July 9th by the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) from a distance of 3.3 million miles.

While the dark area encircled and marked as “whale’s tail” is the most eye-catching (as its name implies, it’s the tail end of a whale-shaped feature), scientists are more intrigued by the barely visible band of complex patterns. According to New Horizons scientist Curt Niebur, “It’s a unique transition region with a lot of dynamic processes interacting, which makes it of particular scientific interest.” These patterns stretch for 1,000 miles across the dwarf planet, with one end located near the “whales’ tail.” We’ll most likely see the band, the whale and that mysterious polygonal feature from a closer distance when the probe flies by Pluto on July 14th.

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Source: NASA

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