Cameras embedded in NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues to throw up details of the dwarf planet Pluto. Latest pictures captured by the craft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager or LORRI are showing distinct surface regions of the planet, some of which are bright and some are dark.
Right now New Horizons is around 40 million km away from completing the historic flyby of Pluto; the event is expected to take place on July 14, 2015.
Right now it cannot be said what exactly the dark and bright surfaces on Pluto represent. However, this will definitely be clearer as New Horizons gets closer to the planet.
Scientists need to do a lot of processing for producing these views. There are also possibilities that they had to introduce some kind of artifacts. However, these newly obtained images are showing quite clearly that Pluto contains really diverse terrains.
Alan Stern, the principal investigator of New Horizons, said that although these new images have been captured from a distance of over 30 million miles, they are successfully showcasing a significantly complex surface boasting both dark and bright regions. Stern added that based on the images it can be said that variations in brightness might also exist. Stern currently works at the Boulder, Colorado-based Southwest Research Institute.
According to Stern, the images have helped them to comprehend that every face of the planet is different; while its northern hemisphere has large dark terrains, both its brightest and darkest regions are located just on or south of its equator. Right now, even the scientists don’t know what exactly is responsible for this difference.
At this moment, the NASA probe is 4.7 billion km away from Earth and only 39 million km away from Pluto. Its speed will be around 14 km/sec when flying across the dwarf planet; this speed is too high for going into the planet’s orbit.
So, instead of entering the orbit, the probe will be executing an automated, preplanned investigation. It will be capturing as many images as possible and will also concentrate on gathering data when flying past the planet and its five moons, Hydra, Kerberos, Nix, Styx and Charon.
Last week, Pluto was in news when the Hubble Space Telescope revealed the kind of chaotic behavior smaller satellites tend to showcase when circling more firmly bound Charon and Pluto.