6 Incredible New Photos From Pluto Stun Scientists – #4 is Amazing

In what could be called “romanticizing the icey stone” this next image certainly has a ton of human appeal, although the geological features that created it are clearly random:

#5 The Heart of Pluto

heart-of-pluto

Yes, it definitely appears that Pluto has a heart! And it’s a huge heart at that, approximately 1,000 miles across! Not only that, but it may actually be beating, in a manner of sorts, because scientists are speculating that the flatness of the enormous plain may be due to ongoing geological processes.

#5 Evidence of Glacier Flows

Near the bottom of the heart, scientists studied various features of an area informally named Sputnik Planum (or plain), where flows of nitrogen ice can be seen.  In the image below, the red arrows indicate the ice that is flowing from the nearby ice mountains to Sputnik Palnum, and the front edge of the ice flow is indicated by the blue arrows:

pluto-sputnik-planum-ice-flows

 

#6 Another View of the Glacier Flows

Our last stunning image shows the same area as above, but is re-projected from the new, crescent image that began this article. This view gives a more 3-dimensional view of the ice flow, and the red and blue arrows point to the same features as in the above photo for comparison.

pluto-sputnik-planum-ice-flows2

Can’t you almost imagine that there is a forest on the right side of that image?

The final quote of the NASA.com article says a lot about how surprising these images are to the astronomers who are studying them:

“We did not expect to find hints of a nitrogen-based glacial cycle on Pluto operating in the frigid conditions of the outer solar system,” said Alan Howard, a member of the mission’s Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “Driven by dim sunlight, this would be directly comparable to the hydrological cycle that feeds ice caps on Earth, where water is evaporated from the oceans, falls as snow, and returns to the seas through glacial flow.”

“Pluto is surprisingly Earth-like in this regard,” added Stern, “and no one predicted it.”

We expect more surprises from Pluto as the images continue to flow in from New Horizons, but in the meantime, for all the details that they’ve gleaned from these images, you can check out the excellent photo essay on NASA’s website.

 

Sources:Pluto ‘Wows’ in Spectacular New Backlit Panorama” and “Pluto is Dominated by the Feature Informally Named the ‘Heart’” 

Photo Credit (all photos): NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI