NASA Unveils 'Perplexing Snakeskin' Pluto Images

25/09/2015 10:45 BST | Updated 25/09/2015 11:59 BST

NASA's latest high-resolution view of Pluto has left scientists both astonished and mystified.

Captured by the New Horizons craft, the image reveals a bizarre landscape that looks remarkably similar to snakeskin, the space agency said in a statement.


“It’s a unique and perplexing landscape stretching over hundreds of miles,” said William McKinnon, a member of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team.

“It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology. This’ll really take time to figure out; maybe it’s some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto’s faint sunlight.”

To the naked eye, the image shows off Pluto's astonishing blend of colours, including "pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds."

What scientists will have to do now is decode this information and find out what geological features these colours represent.


The view, which NASA says is roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by its Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera.

Other pictures captured by another camera -- the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager -- suggest that some of Pluto's features resemble "dunes, the older shoreline of a shrinking glacial ice lake, and fractured, angular water ice mountains with sheer cliffs."


Alongside these stunning images, researchers are also using new composition information to better understand the dwarf planet.

A newly obtained map shows Pluto to have regions of high and low methane concentration.

According to NASA this distribution is anything but simple "with higher concentrations on bright plains and crater rims, but usually none in the centers of craters or darker regions."