Christmas in July: more Pluto system photos!

The mission team said it would be like Christmas every day for the next 16 months as they keep getting more stuff down from the probe.  They’re weren’t kidding.  Check this out.  The mountains we saw in the last close-up image of Pluto have been named Norgay Montes (after the Sherpa guide who, with Edmund Hillary, was first to the top of Mount Everest), and the adjacent smooth area in Tombaugh Regio (the “heart”) has been dubbed Sputnik Planum.  There’s no name yet for this bit, which just came out today, a set of mountains about as high as the Rockies and which are very different from Norgay Montes.  This is also a significantly older terrain, with some impact craters visible.  Interestingly, the white material is clearly filling in the dark cratered terrain — sort of the inverse of the dark Cassini Regio on Iapetus.

nh-pluto-mountain-range

And it’s not just Pluto itself we’re getting to see! They’ve got the first half-decent images of Nix and Hydra now!

nh-nix-hydra-7-21

Mission scientist Carley Howell is very excited about the curious red region on Nix.  In the press release for this image, she was quoted “This observation is so tantalizing, I’m finding it hard to be patient for more Nix data to be downlinked.”  We’re right there with you, ma’am!  Patience is hard, but it will be rewarded.  😉

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