A spectacular sampling of imagery from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveals mountains and water ice bedrock on Pluto, an active crust on its largest moon Charon and the first resolved views of the icy world’s tiny mini-moons.
A new model developed by University of Rochester researchers could offer an explanation as to how cracks on icy moons, such as Pluto’s Charon, formed. Until now, it was thought that the cracks were the result of geodynamical processes, such as plate tectonics, but computer simulations suggest that a close encounter with another body might have been the cause.
One of the strangest landforms spotted by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft when it flew past Pluto was the “bladed” terrain formally named Tartarus Dorsa. The blades reach hundreds of feet high and are typically spaced a few miles apart. No geology degree is necessary to see why the terrain is so interesting — just grab your red and green 3-D spectacles.
The icy plains of Pluto resolved by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft stretch as wide as Texas, enveloping mountain ranges and bizarre hilly outcrops in a mosaic revealing one lobe of the distant world’s heart-shaped reservoir of exotic frozen carbon monoxide, nitrogen and methane.