Woah, what’s going on with Pluto? Don’t worry your eyes are fine. You’re looking at a false color image created by New Horizons scientists using a method called principal component analysis. While the image may look trippy, it brings out the subtle color differences on Pluto’s surface.
Another false color image was released shortly after New Horizons flyby of the distant world.
And here’s one more showing what Pluto looks like if you were hitching a ride with New Horizons.
Icy volcanoes on Pluto?
That’s what 3-D maps put together by New Horizons geologists are suggesting. Dubbed Wright Mons and Piccard Mons by the New Horizons team, these possible cryovolcanoes could have been active recently.
“These are big mountains with a large hole in their summit, and on Earth that generally means one thing — a volcano,” said Oliver White, New Horizons postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “If they are volcanic, then the summit depression would likely have formed via collapse as material is erupted from underneath.”
While their features may be similar to what we see on Earth, they wouldn’t spew hot magma. Instead, it would be methane, water ice, nitrogen or ammonia according to NASA.
The weird textures you see just outside the depression could be some type of volcanic flow. But the New Horizons team doesn’t have any idea what they are made of. Not yet, anyways. That will probably change as more data is downlinked from New Horizons.
If Pluto does sport cryovolcanoes, it will give scientists valuable insights into the evolution of the dwarf planet’s geology and atmosphere.
It wouldn’t be a Pluto story unless Alan Stern expressed his giddy enthusiasm.
“It’s hard to imagine how rapidly our view of Pluto and its moons are evolving as new data stream in each week. As the discoveries pour in from those data, Pluto is becoming a star of the solar system,” said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern. “Moreover, I’d wager that for most planetary scientists, any one or two of our latest major findings on one world would be considered astounding. To have them all is simply incredible.”
It’s awesome to see so much excitement around NASA. Who knew Pluto would be the one to bring it?
Best random fact about New Horizons
Did you know New Horizons is carrying state quarters from Florida and Maryland? Yep, and it gets cooler. Scientists use them as a spin-balance weight on the mission.
— NASA New Horizons (@NASANewHorizons) November 13, 2015