Nix, Hydra and Pluto

An update on the New Horizons exploration of Pluto, with photos of Pluto’s second and third moons, Nix and Hydra.

Pluto’s moon Nix (left), shown here in enhanced color as imaged by the New Horizons Ralph instrument, has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. The data were obtained on the morning of July 14, 2015, and received on the ground on July 18. At the time the observations were taken New Horizons was about 102,000 miles (165,000 km) from Nix. The image shows features as small as approximately 2 miles (3 kilometers) across on Nix, which is estimated to be 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and 22 miles (36 kilometers) wide.

Pluto’s small, irregularly shaped moon Hydra (right) is revealed in this black and white image taken from New Horizons’ LORRI instrument on July 14, 2015 from a distance of about 143,000 miles (231,000 kilometers). Features as small as 0.7 miles (1.2 kilometers) are visible on Hydra, which measures 34 miles (55 kilometers) in length.

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

More at New Horizons ‘Captures’ Two of Pluto’s Smaller Moons

And NASA have released another close-up of Pluto’s surface: NASA’s New Horizons Finds Second Mountain Range in Pluto’s ‘Heart’

Pluto's mountain range

A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain. This image was acquired by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible.

Pluto’s icy mountains have company. NASA’s New Horizons mission has discovered a new, apparently less lofty mountain range on the lower-left edge of Pluto’s best known feature, the bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region).

These newly-discovered frozen peaks are estimated to be one-half mile to one mile (1-1.5 kilometers) high, about the same height as the United States’ Appalachian Mountains. The Norgay Montes (Norgay Mountains) discovered by New Horizons on July 15 more closely approximate the height of the taller Rocky Mountains.

The new range is just west of the region within Pluto’s heart called Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain). The peaks lie some 68 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Norgay Montes.

This newest image further illustrates the remarkably well-defined topography along the western edge of Tombaugh Regio.

“There is a pronounced difference in texture between the younger, frozen plains to the east and the dark, heavily-cratered terrain to the west,” said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “There’s a complex interaction going on between the bright and the dark materials that we’re still trying to understand.”

While Sputnik Planum is believed to be relatively young in geological terms – perhaps less than 100 million years old – the darker region probably dates back billions of years. Moore notes that the bright, sediment-like material appears to be filling in old craters (for example, the bright circular feature to the lower left of center).

This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The names of features on Pluto have all been given on an informal basis by the New Horizons team.

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

There will be a lot more to come from New Horizons.

And NASA have also been looking for planets elsewhere: Nasa discovers Earth-like planet

Scientists using NASA’s powerful Kepler telescope have found a planet beyond the solar system that is a close match to Earth.

The planet, which is about 60 per cent bigger than Earth, is located about 1400 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, the scientists told a news conference on Friday (NZT).

While similarly sized planets have been found before, the latest one, known as Kepler-452b, is circling a star that is very similar but older than our sun, at a distance about the same as Earth’s orbit.

Images with the article are just ‘artist’s concept’ so meaningless, as the revelations on a far closer planet, Pluto have proven. They have no idea what planets in other solar systems will look like.

Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. These ‘moons’ look like fragments of a planet that broke up (by a huge impact ?)
    it would be good to see a close-up of the red area on ‘Nix’.

    Reply
  2. kittycatkin

     /  26th July 2015

    How do the moons go around if they’re that shape ? I thought that they’d need to be spherical.

    Thank goodness Zedd’s not blaming John Key for the moons being that shape.

    Reply
    • maybe I would.. IF I could !

      maybe you could ‘see the sun shining’ all the way from Pluto ? 🙂

      Reply

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