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.
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: