After a lull of several weeks, the downlinking of new data from the New Horizons spacecraft has begun, including stunning new images of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, as well as a treasure trove of other scientific data. There is so much to come that it will take about one year to downlink everything from the spacecraft and send back to Earth. Those first amazing images of Pluto and its moons were only the beginning.
It has been nearly a month and a half since the historic flyby of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft, and now the mission team has selected its next target for exploration – a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69, which orbits the Sun about a billion miles further than Pluto. This will be the first time such a remote object in the Kuiper belt has been visited by a spacecraft from Earth.
Another beautiful mosaic image of the icy mountains and plains in the southern “heart” region of Pluto, this time in colour with image processing by Thomas Appéré. The mountains on the left have been named Norgay Montes and the plains are now known as Sputnik Planum. Plus more Pluto information and images at the next press briefing tomorrow!
Another amazing image of Pluto’s surface has been released, showing a second mountain range similar to the one previously photographed by New Horizons. The peaks in this range are estimated to be from 1 to 1.5 kilometres (0.5 mile to 1 mile tall), similar to the Appalachian Mountains in the U.S., and like the others, composed of solid water ice.
A great new colour mosaic of the first Pluto flyby images released so far is now available from Thomas Appéré. The images show the Sputnik Planum plains and Norway Montes mountains in the southern part of the large “heart” feature. More images to come soon!