Images just sent back to Earth this week of Pluto’s tiny moon tiny Kerberos taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft complete the family portrait of Pluto’s moons. Kerberos has a double-lobed shape suggesting that it could have been formed by the merger of two smaller objects. It also appears to be smaller than scientists expected and has a highly-reflective surface, counter to predictions prior to the Pluto flyby in July.
It seems that the more we see of Pluto, the more fascinating it gets. This latest image, from the heart of Pluto’s heart feature, shows the plains’ enigmatic cellular pattern as well as unusual clusters of small pits and troughs. Adding to the intrigue is that even at this resolution of 250 metres, no impact craters are seen, testifying to the region’s extreme geologic youth.
At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best colour and the highest resolution images yet of Charon, showing a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-colour variations and more — all evidence of a surprisingly complex and violent history.
What a difference 20 million miles makes! Images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons are growing in scale as the spacecraft approaches its mysterious target. The new images, taken May 8th-12th using a powerful telescopic camera and downlinked last week, reveal more detail about Pluto’s complex and high contrast surface.