These Hi-Res Images of Pluto Are a Giant Leap for Space Exploration

Thanks, New Horizons. You're our favorite deep-space, Pluto-passing probe.

You might remember a few months ago the internet was abuzz because a piano-shaped chunk of metal launched nine years prior had finally reached Pluto and was sending back some pretty cool photos. The dwarf planet, so far away that our previous best image of it looked like a power-up from Doom II, finally had a face we could recognize. The New Horizons probe rekindled interest in Pluto, stoked our collective wonder, and launched a thousand heart-shaped memes:


Of course, as is wont to occur, the New Horizons buzz waned as our attention shifted to the other stigma: dead lionsreligious uproar, and flashy acts of buffoonery. Meanwhile, NASA has kept its foot on the gas — its researchers working tirelessly to dig through all the exciting stuff the spacecraft has sent back. Yesterday the agency released a fresh batch of new Pluto images to once again pique our interest and inspire a sense of wonder. I mean — seriously — we sent a piano-shaped chunk of metal to Pluto! I still can't get over that.

Below are the photos. Here is the NASA post for more info on each. Credit for the images goes to NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Close-up of Pluto's now-famous heart.


This 300-mile wide swath of "jumbled terrain" portrays the surprising diversity of Pluto's surface features. More on that below.


This is Charon, Pluto's largest satellite. It's about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in diameter, which means it would fit snugly into the space between New York and Chicago.

Astronomers have noted that these images reveal as many mysteries as they solve with regard to Pluto's geography and origin. For example, the planet's surface displays a diversity of land features beyond what most scientists expected. The photo below shows what appears to be a cluster of dunes beside a cluster of craters butted up against a cluster of mountainous masses. That's a lot of clusters for a small dwarf planet! How all this came to be is currently unknown given that Pluto's atmosphere is extremely thin and thus lacks the oomph necessary to develop these sorts of geographic characteristics. 

If you're gearing for additional photos, you're in luck: We can expect a whole lot more of these images in the coming year. The Guardian explains why:

"These new images are part of a 16-month download that began last weekend. Because New Horizons is so far away, more than 5 billion kilometres, data trickles back hundreds of thousands of times more slowly than over a fibre optic broadband on Earth.

More revelations and surprises are expected as the data continues to arrive."

We can't wait.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

10 books to check out from Jordan Peterson's 'Great Books' list

The Canadian professor has an extensive collection posted on his site.

Jordan Peterson with Carl Jung and the cover art of Jaak Panksepp's 'Affective Neuroscience' (Image: Chris Williamson/Getty Images/Big Think)
Personal Growth
  • Peterson's Great Books list features classics by Orwell, Jung, Huxley, and Dostoevsky.
  • Categories include literature, neuroscience, religion, and systems analysis.
  • Having recently left Patreon for "freedom of speech" reasons, Peterson is taking direct donations through Paypal (and Bitcoin).
Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

Should you invest in China's stock market? Know this one thing first.

Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.

Videos
  • China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
  • Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
  • Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.