Pluto defies all expectations

pluto reports: Pluto, known for more than eight decades as just a faint, fuzzy and faraway point of light, is shaping up to be one of the most complex and diverse worlds in the solar system.

Pluto’s frigid surface varies tremendously from place to place, featuring provinces dominated by different types of ices — methane in one place, nitrogen in another and water in yet another, newly analyzed photos and measurements from NASA’s New Horizons mission reveal.

“That is unprecedented,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, who’s based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“I don’t know any other place in the entirety of the outer solar system where you see anything like this,” Stern told “The closest analogy is the Earth, where we see water-rich surfaces and rock-rich surfaces that are completely different.”

That’s just one of the new Pluto results, which are presented in a set of five New Horizons papers published online on Thursday in the journal Science. Taken together, the five studies paint the Pluto system in sharp detail, shedding new light on the dwarf planet’s composition, geology and evolution over the past 4.6 billion years. [Continue reading…]

See also an infographic explaining NASA’s mission to Pluto.
Diagrams show New Horizons encounter with Pluto
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