NASA has released latest images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft at its official website on July, 11. The pictures highlight four strange dark spots that are lined along Pluto’s equator and its biggest moon Charon. The spots are evenly spaced and are 300 miles across. The spots are placed along a dark belt that rings the planet’s surface. A better view of the spots is not possible, and this is a pity.
The New Horizons gets closer to Pluto, and the dwarf planet becomes more and puzzling. As the mysterious dark spots on the planet come into sharper focus, scientists still have no idea what they are.
The new image has been taken by the New Horizons spacecraft which is almost 2.5 million miles away and is hurtling at a speed of a bullet. The pictures show that the boundaries of the circles are not regular. It could be a sign that whatever has caused the circles to form is a much more complicated process than envisaged by the scientists.
Jeff Moore, a member of the New Horizons team based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Said in a statement that it is not clear if these spots are brightness variations on a completely smooth surface or they are plateaus or plains. Curt Niebur, the mission’s program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, feels that these spots are very weird since they are so evenly placed.
It will be a pity that scientists will not be able to get answers from the flyby that will happen on Tuesday at 3.49 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The spots will be facing the large moon Charon and away from the hurtling spacecraft which is now moving at a speed of 36,000 mph. It means that the pictures will be the last and the most comprehensive view of Pluto’s far-side for decades to come.
The piano-sized spacecraft has enriched knowledge about the dwarf planet. There is a heart-shaped structure on the Pluto’s rusty red surface. The dwarf planned is dotted with shiny points that could be ice caps and also features a dark shaped structure nicknamed ‘The Whale.’
Source: NASA | Image Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI