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Photo of Pluto's Jagged Shores Revealed by NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft

Jun 14, 2016 06:57 AM EDT
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After almost one year since the New Horizons' closest flyby to the dwarf planet in July 2015, tons of data are still coming in for researchers and scientists to analyze. One notable image sent back by the spacecraft entails great icy plains in the southeastern portion of Pluto. Visible on the lower right is the jagged highlands border, a standout in Pluto's icy plains.

 

The name was derived from Pluto's dark nature, Krun known as a lord of the underworld, while macula is a dark feature on a planetary surface, according to NASA.

At the edge of Krun Macula, also called Sputnik Planum, jagged shores were found. These are composed of dozens of connected circular pits causing the effect when photographed from space.

The pits are about five to eight miles across and up to 1.5 miles deep. Deeper pits were also found, some reaching two miles deep, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Nitrogen ice was also found covering most pits, which is not surprising for a frozen body like Pluto.

"New Horizons scientists think these pits may have formed through surface collapse, although what may have prompted such a collapse is a mystery," said NASA in a statement.

Because of its seemingly different rugged surface, compared to the rest of Pluto's heart, astronomers believe that the jagged terrain was formed by surface collapse, according to a report by Daily Mail. However, astronomers cannot explain how the collapse might had occurred.

NASA used three separate observations by New Horizons to come up with the enhanced image. The stitched image represents the highest and second-highest resolution obtained by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC).

From the photo, a dark red area on the left of Sputnik Planum is also visible. It is believed that the dwarf planet got its red color from the substance called "tholins," which are complex molecules present within its surface.

The New Horizons mission also found other fascinating facts from Pluto such as the "beating" of its icy heart, and the mission also produced the most detailed photo mosaic spanning across the surface of the dwarf planet. 

 

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