Latest Pluto Image From New Horizons Shows Four Dark Spots

Posted on July 11, 2015

NASA has shared the latest image of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. The latest photo shows the best image yet of Pluto's four dark spots. The photograph was taken 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) from Pluto.

The dark spots are on the side of Pluto that faces Charon, its largest moon. The spots are connected along a dark belt circling Pluto's equatorial region. The spots are estimated to be 300 miles across. The latest image shows the large dark spots have splotchy, irregular shapes.

NASA scientists are curious about the similar size of the spots and their even spacing. New Horizons program scientist Curt Niebur at NASA Headquarters in Washington says in a statement, "It’s weird that they’re spaced so regularly."

Jeff Moore of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California, adds, "We can't tell whether they're plateaus or plains, or whether they're brightness variations on a completely smooth surface."

NASA also shared this stunning photograph of Pluto and Charon. The photo includes color information data from the Ralph instrument. Astronomers says Pluto has a significant atmosphere but its moon, Charon, does not. You can view more images of Pluto and Charon here.

New Horizons will be making its closest approach to Pluto very soon. It will pass within about 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) during its flyby of Pluto's surface early on July 14. It will be passing Pluto at a speed of 30,8000 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour).

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