NASA has unveiled the sharpest images of Pluto yet, showing off its alien landscape in stunning detail.
The space agency's New Horizons spacecraft captured views of the dwarf planet with resolutions of 250-280 feet per pixel -- a first for the spacecraft's team.
The pictures were taken during New Horizon's closest approach to Pluto, showing glacial, cratered and mountainous terrains in beautiful detail.
Pluto's icy plains - informally dubbed “Sputnik Planum” - are seen here to have "crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains," NASA said. One New Horizons team member explained the picture reinforced their "earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations."
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This image highlighted Pluto's icy plains filled with craters that have layered interior walls. "Impact craters are nature's drill rigs, and the new, highest-resolution pictures of the bigger craters seem to show that Pluto's icy crust, at least in places, is distinctly layered,” said William McKinnon, deputy lead of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team.
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According to NASA, erosion and faulting have shaped certain parts of Pluto's icy crust.
All of the above views represent a strip 50 miles wide -- giving us wonderful insight into a world three billion miles away and totally alien to us.
"These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on planet Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, former astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
“New Horizons thrilled us during the July flyby with the first close images of Pluto, and as the spacecraft transmits the treasure trove of images in its onboard memory back to us, we continue to be amazed by what we see."