A Closer Look at Pluto

A Closer Look at Pluto

The Solar System’s Red-Headed Stepchild

Back in January 2006, NASA launched New Horizons, a space probe destined for an encounter with the on-again/off-again planet called Pluto. This year the probe finally reached Pluto and, after a six-month flyby, sent back some truly stunning images. The details and quality are unlike anything we’ve seen before and have provided us with a truly unparalleled new view of Pluto. While New Horizons is on track for a mission to the Kuiper Belt (ETA: January 2019), we are free to marvel at never-before-seen images of the dwarf planet.

Mosaic of Pluto showing it off in true color. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Mosaic of Pluto showing it off in true color. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This image was taken from a distance of 50,000 miles and shows terrain with an expanse of 1,100 miles. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This image was taken from a distance of 50,000 miles and shows terrain with an expanse of 1,100 miles. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Images of Pluto's dark side show off the haze layers surrounding the dwarf planet. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Images of Pluto’s dark side show off the haze layers surrounding the dwarf planet. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This massive ice plain is informally known as Sputnik Planum.

This massive ice plain is informally known as Sputnik Planum. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

A different view of Sputnik Planum. Scientists believe the bright white upland region on the right might be covered in nitrogen ice.

A different view of Sputnik Planum. Scientists believe the bright white upland region on the right might be covered in nitrogen ice. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto's icy mountains.

Pluto’s icy mountains. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Top-down view of Pluto's mountains.

Top-down view of Pluto’s mountains. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

The dwarf planet's icy plain has been affectionately nicknamed Pluto's Heart.

The dwarf planet’s icy plain has been affectionately nicknamed Pluto’s Heart. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

A look at Pluto in false color. Scientists use this technique to spot differences in the texture and composition of the object.

A look at Pluto in false color. Scientists use this technique to spot differences in the texture and composition of the object. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This image shows off Pluto's geographical diversity. We have old craters, young smooth terrain, mountains and dark ridges that could be dunes, all within a 220-mile wide image.

This image shows off Pluto’s geographical diversity. We have old craters, young smooth terrain, mountains and dark ridges that could be dunes, all within a 220-mile wide image. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Close-up look at Pluto's largest moon, Charon.

Close-up look at Pluto’s largest moon, Charon. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Just to put things in perspective, here is the image we had of Pluto 10 years ago. Photo: NASA, ESA, M. Buie.

Just to put things in perspective, here is the image we had of Pluto 10 years ago. Photo: NASA, ESA, M. Buie.