Astronomers Reveal Best-Ever Images Of The Far Side Of Pluto

Forbes | 10/24/2019 | Staff
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Pluto's far side was originally shrouded in darkness when New Horizons flew past.

A team of astronomers from NASA’s New Horizons mission has unveiled our best look yet at the far side of Pluto, which went unseen to the spacecraft during its historic July 2015 flyby of the dwarf planet.

Hemisphere - Pluto - High-resolution - New - Horizons

We have only seen one hemisphere of Pluto in high-resolution because the New Horizons flyby of Pluto lasted just hours, whereas the dwarf planet takes 6.4 Earth days to rotate. Thus as New Horizons flew past, one side of the world was illuminated by the Sun, but the other was shrouded in darkness.

However, using images taken by the spacecraft while it was on approach up to a distance of six million kilometers away, the team was able to use image processing tools to reveal Pluto’s hidden hemisphere. The final resolution is 100 times better than the Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope, which had previously provided our best views of this hemisphere.

Behold - Side - Pluto - Region - Bottom

Behold, the far side of Pluto. The black region at the bottom was not visible to the spacecraft.

“As the spacecraft was on approach in 2015, we trained our color and high-resolution black and white cameras on Pluto,” says Alan Stern from the Southwest Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the principal investigator on New Horizons and the lead author on the new paper describing the images, published on arXiv. “We selected the best images from those datasets and mosaiced them together into one.”

Results - Features - Hemisphere - New - Horizons

The results show fascinating features and a hemisphere that is both similar and different to the one observed by New Horizons during its flyby. One similarity is the presence of steep ridges on both hemispheres stretching up to a kilometer above the surface, known as blades, features that are not seen anywhere else in the Solar System. These blades appear to be widespread on...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Forbes
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