NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft may have blasted past Pluto back in July, but almost half a year later we are still getting wowed by the data beaming back to us. We’ve already seen Pluto’s bleeding heart and its beautiful sunset. Today however, NASA released New Horizons’ ultra-hi-res shots of the Plutonian surface — the first, best, and last we’ll see for a long time.
The above strip is around 50 miles by 500 miles of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum, a large, icy plain in the middle of the dwarf planet’s “heart.” Frozen mountains eventually give way to rippled, occasionally polygonal sections of ice and dirt. It looks like something you’d see from an airplane cruising over the surface, but in reality New Horizons was 10,000 miles overhead when these images were snapped.
The entire sequence was shot over a mere 60 seconds, demonstrating the capabilities of out probes in general, and our cameras — like the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons — specifically.
“These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on planet Earth,” said former astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld in a press release. “New Horizons thrilled us during the July flyby with the first close images of Pluto, and as the spacecraft transmits the treasure trove of images in its onboard memory back to us, we continue to be amazed by what we see.”