What Are the Strange Spots on These Brand New Images of Pluto?

Illustration for article titled What Are the Strange Spots on These Brand New Images of Pluto?

New color images acquired by NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft show us Pluto as we’ve never seen it before—and on its surface appear to be a series of giant spots that scientists can not yet explain.

NASA researchers have identified a series of spots along the dwarf planet’s equator. Each one is about 300 miles across which, NASA points out, means they each cover an aera about the same size as the state of Missouri. But nobody knows what the are.

“It’s a real puzzle—we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,” said Alan Stern, who works on the New Horizons project, in a press release. “Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon.”

Illustration for article titled What Are the Strange Spots on These Brand New Images of Pluto?

The pictures were created when the researchers combined two sets of images. They took black-and-white images of Pluto from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and added ower-resolution color data from another instrument. The images are more-or-less true color, which means that this is how you’d see Pluto if you were zooming towards it like New Horizons is.

While the spots are puzzling, NASA scientists should learn more about them as New Horizons gets closer to Pluto over the coming month. Let’s hope so.



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I’m sad that so many commenters chose to make jokes. This is an historic event in our lifetime. Each day closer to Pluto is a better image of it that has never been made before. This is a planetoid and until recently a planet that has never before been visited by a probe or observed in such detail. Yet the first knee-jerk response seems to be how to make the best joke. Is there a big migration of Deadspin commenters to IO9 (eta: sorry, Gizmodo, but same diff)? First best joke wins the thread?

Anyway thanks for the article Jamie. It’s pretty amazing to see a real-time approach to a (dwarf/)planet and the various ponderings of planetary scientists. Ceres is also very interesting since those bright spots are still unexplained. But I guess if that was made into an article commenters would be striving to make the best jokes about bright spots. What a cynical and tribally egoistic people you commenters are. If life was suddenly discovered on Europa your first thought would be how best to make a joke response in order to get clicks and ingratiate yourself with your peers.

Asteroid will strike Earth and end all life in two months

At least the Kardashians will be gone!” tee hee, I hope my joke is well received so that from that I feel special.

Why do you people even comment at all? Please explain why you chose to make a stupid joke comment on this article. Sociologists and Psychiatrists are interested in the answers.