A new image from the New Horizons spacecraft’s Pluto flyby has revealed a second mountain range within a heart-shaped region on the dwarf planet’s surface that lies near the southwestern margin of the heart-shaped area dubbed “Tombaugh Regio” (Tombaugh Region) by scientists. Last week NASA released its first closeup image of an area near Pluto’s equator, which contains a range of mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet.
“Pluto’s icy mountains have company,” explained NASA, in a statement. “NASA’s New Horizons mission has discovered a new, apparently less lofty mountain range on the lower-left edge of Pluto’s best known feature, the bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Regio.” The new range is just west of the region within Pluto’s heart called Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), NASA said.
Pluto’s moon Nix at top of the page (left), shown in enhanced color as imaged by the New Horizons Ralph instrument, has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. The data were obtained on the morning of July 14, 2015, and received on the ground on July 18. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)
The agency also released a new image of Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra. NASA noted that New Horizons’ first color image of Nix, in which colors have been enhanced, reveals an intriguing region, which is estimated to be 26 miles long and 22 miles wide.
“Additional compositional data has already been taken of Nix, but is not yet downlinked. It will tell us why this region is redder than its surroundings,” said mission scientist Carly Howett of the Southwest Research Institute, in a statement. “This observation is so tantalizing, I’m finding it hard to be patient for more Nix data to be downlinked,” she added.
Members of NASA’s New Horizons team will be holding a science update on July 24 to reveal new images and discuss the latest results from the spacecraft’s historic July 14 flyby.