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NASA

NASA's New Horizons Returns Images of the Canyons of Pluto's North Pole (examiner.com) 29

MarkWhittington writes: NASA's New Horizon space probe, which flew by Pluto last July, continues to send data and images that amaze and awe. The space agency released an image of Pluto's North Pole taken by the probe's Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The image shows, as has previous images of other regions of the so-called dwarf planet, that Pluto is a diverse world with an active geology. The North Pole of Pluto is characterized by long canyons that are covered in yellow methane ice. The canyons show how the dwarf planet had, and perhaps still has active tectonics..
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NASA's New Horizons Returns Images of the Canyons of Pluto's North Pole

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  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @11:46AM (#51591619)

    We must make them AMERICAN canyons!

  • Neat! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainLard ( 1902452 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @12:22PM (#51591859)

    To break up the usual parade of strained jokes on science articles, how bout posting your favorite cool new thing that we learned from New Horizons? To start...

    Pluto has a large mass of frozen nitrogen on its surface that supports many "hills". These may be composed of water ice (less dense than N ice) that float on the slowly shifting nitrogen ice "sea" like an iceberg!

    • Re:Neat! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @12:33PM (#51591931)

      My favorite thing is that Pluto is so cold, that it has water ice "rocks" that are harder than rocks on Earth. Just when we think we've figured out everything, we find something else in the Universe that completely blows away our expectations (in the best possible way).

    • Re:Neat! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:42PM (#51593417)

      " your favorite cool new thing that we learned from New Horizons? "

      My vote goes to the finding of active tectonics. This implies heat, which is coming from...where?

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Dark Heat.

      • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

        My vote goes to the finding of active tectonics. This implies heat, which is coming from...where?

        I think the most popular theory is gravity from Pluto's moon, Charon, pulls on the planet deferentially as it orbits creating internal friction and heat, in the same way the Earth's moon is theorized to drive the Earth's internal heat, mantle convection, and tectonics. Charon orbits Pluto very closely and is relatively large compared to Pluto. Some have even suggested calling Pluto and Charon a "binary planet." At any rate, they exert strong gravitational forces on each other, and based on the features obse

        • in the same way the Earth's moon is theorized to drive the Earth's internal heat, mantle convection, and tectonics

          So not at all, then?

    • by Ranbot ( 2648297 )

      Honestly, that there are any significant geologic processes at all, much less ones that can form these immense and varied landscapes. Pluto and Charon are so small and so far away the Sun that I think most scientists expected Pluto and Charon to be almost featureless balls of ice apart from a few meteor craters.

      This also proves planet-like objects (whatever the classification) can have stable, self-sustaining, internal sources of energy and/or volcanism independent of the energy of our Sun or another star.

  • that's a nice looking planet. ;)

  • Meteors (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jIyajbe ( 662197 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @01:14PM (#51592241)

    I was surprised at the number of (what appear to be) meteor craters; I knew that Pluto is in the Kuiper belt, but I always had the impression that the density of that belt was really low. OTOH, Pluto has been wandering around that region for billions of years, so I guess that adds up over time. Very cool!!

    Plaudits to the New Horizons team! Yay science!

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Why do you think the density of debris is really low there? It is a "belt" after all.

      • Because space is really empty? Even in the most dense part of these belts and clouds, objects are still millions of km apart from each other.

  • For being billions of years old, one would think it would be cratered all to hell. Perhaps it ain't so old at all.
    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      It is likely being resurfaced with tectonic or volcanic activity. Of course, because Pluto is so cold the "vulcanism" is actually things like water "volcanos", but the resurfacing effect would be very similar as the water will solidify into a smooth surface on Pluto much like cooling lava on Earth and warmer planets.

  • by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @01:58PM (#51592555)

    I can imagine Kip and Peewee slogging through that landscape...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Kip needed highly insulated "elephant shoes" on his space suit to keep his feet warm of course during his perilous walk on Pluto :-) In the book Heinlein indicated that Kip saw volcanoes on the horizon due to the stress on the planet as it "warmed" -- in 1958 when the book was written Pluto was still moving towards the sun and warming up slightly. He never said what gave off the light just that it lit up the sky a bit. Since he was clear that the snow was nitrogen, ice was methane and not water, etc. I

      • It is wonderful. I first read it 54 years ago and picked up a new copy last year. It still holds up as a good read.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Whenever I hear about another "discovery" of NH I have to remind myself that although the fly-bus happened weeks ago, it's gonna take forever for the spacecraft to actually send us all those pictures. It's like watching a movie over dial-up: buffering... buffering... buffering...

    I'd lose my mind waiting for all that data. I hope the NH staff is having a great time unpacking their Christmas presents over time. They are well-deserved!

    • Re:Buffering (Score:5, Informative)

      by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday February 26, 2016 @03:46PM (#51593459)

      Because of the slowness of the data link and the fact that NH is barreling away from Earth at high speed, the strategy has been to send all the JPGs first, then the Raw images. It is these, trickling back, that we are seeing now, that are giving us these new revelations so long after the flyby,

      When all the high-res images have been uploaded, NH can be repurposed for a new flyby in the Oort Cloud.

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