'Twilight Zone' Photo: Are there Clouds on Pluto?
The New Horizon's historic flyby of Pluto last year continues to baffle NASA scientists with a steady stream of data being analyzed up to this day.
The latest discovery, a backlit photo of the former planet, appears to showcase clouds in Pluto's atmosphere, a first for the celestial body if proven that what was in the photo were indeed clouds.
Dubbed as the "Twilight Zone", the photo was taken while the Sun is behind Pluto giving it the backlit effect.
After NASA released a detailed photo mosaic, spanning across Pluto's hemisphere, another captivating image of the former planet was released. Due to the position of the New Horizon spacecraft when the photo was taken, it amplified the atmosphere of Pluto showing the haze layers and the ice plains known as Sputnik Planun and the mountains across the top called Norgay Montes.
New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) took the photo with a distance of approximately 13,400 miles. Seen in the center of the image is an intriguing wisp of low-lying cloud, which scientists suggest as the first ever-recorded occurrence on the former planet.
"If so, it would be the only one yet identified in New Horizons imagery. This cloud - if that's what it is - is visible for the same reason the haze layers are so bright: illumination from the sunlight grazing Pluto's surface at a low angle," said NASA in a statement.
NASA released the image of Pluto's "Twilight Zone" last June 2, which was received by the scientific community with enthusiasm being the first photo with a possible evidence of clouds on the celestial body.
"Atmospheric models suggest that methane clouds can occasionally form in Pluto's atmosphere," said NASA in a statement published by Space.com.
NASA said that the detailed photo provides its scientists with anchor points to further understand the terrain and mysterious topography of Pluto. Thanks to the technology brought by New Horizon's MVIC camera, a new discovery may just be made by NASA scientists. The camera has a 1,400 feet per pixel resolution, according to Engadget.
According to experts, this photo is one of the most valuable shots released by NASA, and possibly one of the best photographs of the former planet this generation will see.