NASA and it’s spacecraft New Horizons are very close to Pluto, and have begun sending back images which show that Pluto is larger and with a surface much more diverse than previously thought.
Update: A signal received from the New Horizons spacecraft shows that it has survived its historic encounter with Pluto. The spacecraft passed by Pluto and its five moons at 7.49am EDT (12.49 BST/9.49pm AEST) on Tuesday. It spent the following eight hours continuing to collect data and images, before sending out its signal home.
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Pluto continues to emerge as a geologically diverse celestial body, and the mysteries surrounding many of its features are closer to being solved.
One peculiarity receiving a great deal of attention has been ‘the whale’, a region shaped like its namesake and is markedly different than others surrounding it.
Photos taken by New Horizons from 3.3 million miles of the dwarf planet on July 9th suggest it could be an expanse of flat land.
The composition of the mottled gray area near its tail has also become more evident, revealing it houses a complex arrangement of forms.
Said one of the researchers, “It’s a unique transition region with a lot of dynamic processes interacting, which makes it of particular scientific interest.”
Images taken on July 11th indicate a number of other intriguing geological traits found on Pluto.
They include linear arrangements that may be cliffs, and circular formations believed to be impact craters.
New Horizons is expected to reach its destination point on July 14th.
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