The National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States has captured detailed images of Pluto's surface with the help of New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, reported PTI. The images have a resolution of about 80 metres per pixel. They give a vivid idea about the various types of terrain on the dwarf planet.
The width of the strip that was documented ranges from more than 90 kilometres on the north surface to around 75 kilometres in the south. “This new image product is just magnetic,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Colorado's Southwest Research Institute.
Pluto lost its status as the ninth planet in our solar system when other similar planets were discovered in the Kuiper belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune. Since then, icy Pluto has been one of five dwarf planets in the system. It was discovered in 1930, and its largest moon is called Charon, which takes 6.4 Earth days to orbit around the planet. The planet is one-third the size of Earth's moon. Scientists believe it has a rocky core surrounded by a mantle of water ice.
Pluto's surface exhibits craters as large as 260 kilometers in diameter on the dayside, near encounter hemisphere, which is what the New Horizons mission team calls the side of the planet they have picked up most details of.
Between 1979 and 1999, the planet was closer to the sun than Neptune.
The planet has mountains, made of ice-based bedrock, rising from between 6,500 to 9,800 feet above its surroundings.
Exotic ices like methane and nitrogen frost coat Pluto's surface, according to NASA.
Thanks to its elliptical orbit, the surface ice transforms into gas, and rise, thus creating a thin atmosphere, however temporary.
Frozen gases on the planet's surface are a concoction of nitrogen (N2), carbon monoxide (CO),and methane (CH4). The temperature has been documented to be uninhabitably cold, at -391 F = -235 C.
The planet surface gets its dark colour from carbon residues called tholins, created when solar ultraviolet rays fall on mixtures of nitrogen and methane.