It’s almost been a year since NASA’s New Horizons breezed by Pluto, but the spacecraft is still beaming back new information. On Thursday, the interplanetary probe shared an image of Pluto taken just a few minutes after its closest approach on July 14, 2015.
While we’ve seen many images like the one up above in the past, the angle of the photo, along with the sun’s light, reveals a glowing patch hovering over the planet’s surface. NASA highlights the pertinent area in the gallery above.
The inset at top right shows a detail of Pluto’s crescent, including an intriguing bright wisp (near the center) measuring tens of miles across that may be a discreet, low-lying cloud in Pluto’s atmosphere; if so, it would be the only one yet identified in New Horizon’s imagery.
NASA surmises the cloud—they’re not 100 percent that’s what it is—is likely visible due to the sunlight behind the planet. According to the agency, methane clouds occasionally form in Pluto’s atmosphere, which could be what you’re seeing above. Previously, scientists observed methane snow on the planet, so it all makes sense.
Since flying by Pluto last year, New Horizons has returned some incredible data. This is yet another reason why the distant planet is so fascinating.
Pluto still rocks
Exactly 25 years ago to the day, NASA’s spectacular Voyager 1 spacecraft took a photo for the ages: Pale Blue Dot. The image you see above was snapped by the space probe on Feb. 14, 1990, from about 3.7 billion miles away from Earth. That’s an unfathomable distance, and, as it turns out, a beautiful […]
NASA on Wednesday released the first high resolution close-up image of Pluto, revealing a small region of massive icy mountains. It is, in a word, stunning. And it’s getting a lot of interesting reactions from the scientific community, not only about Pluto itself, but how we think about icy worlds in our solar system. Now that NASA’s […]
NASA’s New Horizons provided some phenomenal photos of Pluto last month, and there’s still plenty more information to come from the industrious spacecraft. But until that information is beamed back over the next several months, why not ride shotgun and re-live the historic flyby? Using the images taken by New Horizons and some enviable imaging […]
As NASA’s New Horizons continues to approach Pluto for the closest ever flyby on July 14, scientists have finally cleared up a long-standing debate about the dwarf planet. Thanks to fresh data collected by the enterprising spacecraft, scientists have found that Pluto is 1,473 miles in diameter, which is actually larger than most prior estimates. Although […]
Can we just take a minute to appreciate how incredible the images are that NASA continues to beam back from space? In addition to New Horizons’ pictures of Pluto, astronaut Scott Kelly has snapped some breathtaking shots from the ISS, giving us a beautiful and unique perspective of Earth. But they pale in comparison to […]
NASA on Thursday revealed another amazing Pluto factoid: the planet appears to have floating hills, or icebergs. The agency said the icebergs are floating in a vast sea of frozen nitrogen at Sputnik Planum, which rests within the planet’s “heart.” “The hills are likely fragments of the rugged uplands that have broken away and are […]
NASA has released a stunning new image of Pluto’s crescent, further revealing the beauty of the beast we saw in the panorama in September. What the image lacks in finer details more than makes up for in splendor, presenting a terrific look at the lonely planet as the sun gently kisses its icy surface. Go home, New […]
Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto in July, NASA’s New Horizons captured what is now the most beautiful image of the dwarf planet. And that’s saying a lot, because the courageous spacecraft has also sent back some truly spectacular pictures—my favorite is this silhouette after New Horizons successfully made its historic flyby. […]
On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will perform a flyby of Pluto, which will be the closest approach ever of the mysterious dwarf planet. The pixelated image you see above was received by scientists on July 8, taken when New Horizons was 5 million miles away. It clears up any lingering confusion about the […]
We already know Pluto features a surprisingly complex geology, but data returned by New Horizons still continues to stump scientists. In a new image shared by NASA on Thursday, the agency revealed a strangely captivating scene of Pluto’s north pole, revealing an impressive amount of canyons and pits. NASA says that many of the canyons, which […]
Pluto’s diverse and increasingly mysterious geology continues to astound, as new photos returned to Earth reveal a series of “halo” craters within the planet’s Vega Terra region. These craters were found far west of the hemisphere NASA’s New Horizons peered during its close approach last summer. The layout of pictures you see above pretty much […]
Data provided by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft suggests Pluto’s moon Charon once had a subsurface ocean. The key here is in the past tense. So what happened to make this ocean disappear? Well, scientists believe the ocean eventually froze, expanded and then burst through Charon’s surface, creating the fractured appearance of the moon today. I […]