That’s it. I’m packing my bags, hitching a ride on the next rocket, and finding a way to skate on the icy nitrogen glaciers of Pluto. The latest flover animation from New Horizons data takes us soaring in the skies over the aching expanses of Sputnik Planum and the jagged teeth of Hillary Montes.
Check out glaciers of nitrogen ice, infilled craters, weirdly textured plains, and jagged hard ice mountains in this animation constructed from the close-approach photographs taken by the New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015:
The flyover adds to a previous animation of the probe’s photographs of Tombaugh Regio and Norgay Montes with new footage of the Sputnik Planum and Hillary Montes.
The Norgay Montes is a massive hard-ice mountain range equivalent to the Rocky Mountains in western North America, and was named in honour of sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The newly-named Hillary Montes complete the Everest-summiting duo by adding a namesake for Edmund Hillary. Hillary Montes are a smaller range, more equivalent to our Appalachians in the Eastern United States.
Sputnik Planum are plains with odd textures most likely from some form of thermal activity. Whether the activity is convective upwelling of liquid nitrogen hiding in porespace within the icy crust or thermal contraction of a cooling surface is yet to be determined.
The simulated flyovers are based on images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons probe. The spacecraft was 77,000 kilometers (48,000 miles) above the dwarf planet’s surface while taking the photograph. The resolution is good enough to identify features as small as 1 kilometer (0.5 miles) in diameter.
We’ll be back tomorrow with a detailed geomorphic breakdown of what’s going on.
Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI