Extended color image of Pluto’s “Tartarus Dorsa” mountains

We’ve seen Pluto’s ice mountains, its glacier-carved plains, its mysterious dark spots. But the dwarf planet still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Today, the New Horizons team released images that reveal a totally new Plutonian feature.

This spiky, linear landscape shown above has been likened to snakeskin, bark, and geology. The mountains stretch for hundreds of miles, and scientists are stumped as to what they are and how they got there.

“This’ll really take time to figure out,” said New Horizons’ William McKinnon. “Maybe it’s some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto’s faint sunlight.”

The team is informally calling the mountain range “Tartarus Dorsa”–probably because “Mordor” is already taken.

Meanwhile, the team also released the “most detailed color map of Pluto ever made”…


Gorgeous, super hi-res image of Pluto

The colors have been enhanced to highlight Pluto’s variety of compositions.

As well as a close-up on the dune-like features that border the flat expanse of Sputnik Planum:

Sputnik close-up

These hilly features (whose color has been enhanced) may be the old shoreline of Sputnik Planum’s shrinking glacial lake.


Closer-up of Sputnik Planum

An even more detailed look shows that the flat, smooth plains of Sputnik Planum are not so flat after all–it’s actually packed with pits. In the image above, we can see features as small as 270 meters.