Pluto pictures are pouring in This July 14, 2015, photo provided by NASA shows a synthetic perspective view of Pluto, based on the latest high-resolution images to be downlinked from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The new close-up images of Pluto reveal an even more diverse landscape than scientists imagined before New Horizons swept past Pluto in July. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute via AP)
Pluto pictures are pouring in
Lexile

The spigot has opened again, and Pluto pictures are pouring in once more from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.
 
These newest snapshots reveal an even more diverse landscape than scientists imagined before New Horizons swept past Pluto in July. It became the first spacecraft to ever visit the distant dwarf planet.
 
"If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top. But that's what is actually there," said Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal scientist from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
 
In one picture, dark ancient craters border much younger icy plains. Dark ridges also are visible that some scientists speculate might be dunes.
 
One outer solar-system geologist, William McKinnon of Washington University in St. Louis, said if the ridges are, in fact, dunes, that would be "completely wild" given Pluto's thin atmosphere.
 
"Either Pluto had a thicker atmosphere in the past, or some process we haven't figured out is at work. It's a head-scratcher," McKinnon said in a written statement.
 
The jumble of mountains, on the other hand, may be huge blocks of ice. They could be floating in a softer, vast deposit of frozen nitrogen.
 
After several weeks of collecting engineering data from New Horizons, scientists started getting fresh Pluto pictures. The latest images were released Sept. 10.
 
Besides geologic features, the images show that the atmospheric haze surrounding Pluto has multiple layers. What's more, the haze creates a twilight effect. It enables New Horizons to study places on the night side that scientists never expected to see.
 
It has been more than two months since New Horizons' close encounter with Pluto. That was on July 14. Its journey began at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The flight has spanned 3 billion miles and 9 1/2 years. As of Sept. 11, the spacecraft was 44 million miles past Pluto.
 
So much data was collected during the Pluto flyby that it will take until next fall to retrieve it all on Earth. The spacecraft is operated from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is in Laurel, Maryland. The physics lab also designed and built it.
 
New Horizons' next target, pending formal approval by NASA, will be a much smaller object that orbits 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. It, too, lies in the so-called Kuiper Belt. That is a frigid twilight zone on the outskirts of our solar system. Following a set of maneuvers, New Horizons would reach PT1 - short for Potential Target 1 - in 2019.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did it take so long to get more photos from Pluto?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (19)
  • jacks-6-bar
    9/17/2015 - 06:21 p.m.

    Photos are transmitted with radio waves. Radio waves are quick to receive on Earth, but the distance around Earth is no where NEAR how far our home is from Pluto; it's why even radio waves had taken such a surprisingly long time to reach us. This article was informative; it contained so many new fact about Pluto's landscape!

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    9/17/2015 - 09:05 p.m.

    I think this is amazing because New Horizons could send us pictures of what Pluto actually looks like. For many years we thought Pluto was just a big ball of rock and ice. There is a lot more than that. There are dunes, there are multiple layers in the atmosphere, and icy plains.
    Why did it take so long to get more photos from Pluto?
    Answer: It took so long to get more photos from Pluto because New Horizons is so far away. it is more than 3 billion miles away from earth so it takes a long time to get information.

  • aidanp-1-bar
    9/17/2015 - 11:55 p.m.

    The reason why it is taking so long to get more photos from Pluto is because there is a billion miles of space between so the radio waves take very long to get to Earth.

  • satchelr-6-bar
    9/18/2015 - 12:21 a.m.

    Pluto is the farthest planet away and has a thicker atmosphere causing the camera to not take pictures as well as it should have. Pluto has never been documented so it is very interesting to finally see.

  • sydneym-3-bar
    9/18/2015 - 02:16 a.m.

    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was sent into space to take pictures of the dwarf planet Pluto in July of 2015.It is the first spacecraft to ever visit the dwarf planet. The pictures have revealed that the landscape of Pluto is even more diverse than scientists had ever imagined. One of the pictures show that Pluto has dark ancient craters that border a lot of younger icy plains. Scientists have also discovered "dark ridges" which are actually dunes. This topic was interesting to read for the following reason. My reason for this topic being interesting is because i did not know that Pluto had all of these fascinating landmarks. It took so long to get more photos from Pluto because Pluto is very far away from Earth so it would take longer to send the pictures.

  • aaront-ric
    9/18/2015 - 03:47 p.m.

    I think that it is cool that they are getting pictures of photo. The pictures came in late July. Now they can get more info on pluto even tho it is not a planet any more.

  • lindsays-mil
    9/18/2015 - 04:17 p.m.

    I think it is amazing that are getting pictures of pluto. Science is advaning every day. They are learning more about are universe. They waited 9 1/2 years to see pictures of a pluto

  • devina-1-mil
    9/18/2015 - 04:20 p.m.

    This article about the new pictures of Pluto that were released by NASA interest me because we have never have been to/seen clear pictures of Pluto. The spacecraft that took these photos launched nine-in-a-half years ago, on July 14, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft has travelled 3,000,000 miles. I am excited to see what they might find on Pluto and how Pluto has dunes if it's atmosphere is so thin. The spacecraft's name is "New Horizon". I also can not wait to see the images from when New Horizon reaches the Kuiper Belt. I find that the spacecraft New Horizon is operated from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland quite amazing. I also can't believe a university desgined the New Horizon because I expected it to be a design from NASA.

  • katiek-mil
    9/21/2015 - 08:01 a.m.

    I predict that someday in the future they will find intelligent life on one of the major landmarks of our solar system. This article is amazing because now we are learning more and more about what is surrounding the Earth. Why did they not send another flight towards Pluto and if they did why did they not mention it? I agree with Alan Stern I would have thought the same thing.

  • olivias-ver
    9/21/2015 - 10:17 a.m.

    I think it is very interesting how they sent a spacecraft, and it took SO many photos in the time it was there. I cant wait until the photos get to earth so i might be able to see them. And maybe with these photos scientists might say that pluto is a planet.

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