Pluto's Heart-Shaped Landscape Is Weirder Than We Thought

Pics captured by New Horizons from just 48,000 miles away reveal the strange alien world

Close-up of Pluto's heart

Close-up of Pluto's heart

The latest imagery of Pluto captured during NASA's New Horizons flyby reveals an extreme close-up of the heart-shaped landmass in Pluto's southern hemisphere. The alien landscape appears to be a vast, craterless plain interrupted by a few small hills. The absence of craters suggests this terrain is quite young by the standards of the solar system, just 100 million years or so.NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft completed its flyby of Pluto three days ago, but the most incredible views of the dwarf planet are just coming to light now.

On Friday afternoon, NASA released new close-up imagery of Pluto's surface captured from just 48,000 miles above the surface — not even as close as New Horizons got at its closest approach, about 7,800 miles. The latest imagery is nonetheless breathtaking to behold, showing us what the interior of the "heart" landmass in Pluto's southern hemisphere really looks like: a vast plain stretching for 12 miles, with large smooth areas interrupted by hills and troughs. Notably missing are impact craters from meteors, indicating that the surfaces is likely very young for the solar system, just 100 million years, or so.

The Sputnik Plains Are Located In The Heart Of Pluto

NASA

Nicknamed "Sputnik Planum", the plains neighbor the 11,000-foot tall ice mountains New Horizons discovered earlier this week. Fly over the contrast-y landscape with this NASA animation:

Let's watch that again, in gif form. Here's Norgay Montes, the icy mountains:

And Sputnik Planum: