Youthful Ice Mountain Range Spotted on Pluto

Posted on July 15, 2015

Pluto youthful mountains

A youthful mountain range has been spotted near Pluto's equator. The close-up photograph was taken when New Horizons was 1.5 hours away from its closest approach. New Horizons was 478,000 miles from the surface of Pluto at the time it took the photo. At this distance the image resolves structures smaller than a mile across.

The New Horizons team says the mountains are likely made of ice and likely formed less than 100 million years ago. The mountains are estimated to be approximately 11,000 feet high. A hi-res image of the above photograph can be found here.

Jeff Moore of New Horizons' Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) says the young age of the mountains suggests the region may still be geologically active. He says, "This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system."

The Telegraph quotes New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) as saying, "The steep topography means the mountains must be made of water ice. We can be very sure the water is there in great abundance. It suggests that geysers and volcanoes are present."

NASA successfully received a signal from the spacecraft indicating it had performed its scientific tasks. Images taken by New Horizons during its closest approach have not yet been released.

Photo: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI