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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019

"A giant surprise": New photos reveal previously unseen mountains on Pluto


nh-pluto-surface-scale Source: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

NASA IS TODAY releasing stunning images of Pluto, revealing never-before-seen features on the dwarf planet.

The New Horizons space probe captured one close-up photo of a region on Pluto’s equator, while passing just 478,000 miles away yesterday.

It shows what NASA called a “giant surprise” – a relatively young mountain range rising up to 11,000 feet (3,500 metres) above the surface.

Jeff Moore, from New Horizons, said:

The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system — and may still be in the process of building.
This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system.

A short video posted by NASA on Twitter gives some context as to the scale of yesterday’s discovery:

Furthermore, the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has captured “remarkable” photos of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon.

nh-charon Source: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

Some geological features on the satellite are also thought to be surprisingly young, and the photo shows previously unseen detail of a dark region in the north of Charon, nicknamed “Mordor.”

The New Horizons interplanetary probe has travelled more than three billion miles, over more than nine and a half years, in order to reach the Pluto system.

Read: Take a look at Pluto as you’ve never seen it>

Read: The final approach to Pluto – We live in very exciting times for space exploration>

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Dan MacGuill

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