NASA – The latest footage from the space probe, New Horizons shows a potential polar cap on the surface of Pluto. The cap looks like a reflective spot on the pole and can well be an ice cap according to the researchers. Although, New Horizons is 60 million miles away from Pluto, the images have already started creating a buzz introducing tit bits about the alien world.
The probe has also sent images of Pluto’s biggest moon Charon. The bright spot gleaming distinctively on the dwarf planet’s surface attracts immediate attention amidst the darker surrounding patches. The surface features of the planet are bleak and make the planet appear lumpy. According to the New Horizons principal investigator, Alan Stern, Pluto has broad surface markings that show structures running hundreds of miles across the planet. Moreover, the planet surface also shows the wide reflectivity range.
The suggestive ice cap images are bright, however, not much is known about Pluto’s composition yet and hence it is difficult to say how the ice cap is formed. Scientists think that it can be made up of frozen water, ammonia or carbon monoxide. Measurements taken from our planet have shown that 70% of Pluto is covered with rock. The images indicate the geological formation of the Pluto to be chemically, or volcanic produced.
When seen with naked eyes, Pluto appears to be reddish, although not exactly like Mars, which appears darker.
Movies Show Charon Revolution
The footage by New Horizons also reveals how its moon Charon affects the orbit of Pluto. Technically speaking the orbiting of Charon is a type of binary system because it has a significantly larger mass than Pluto. The images provided by the probe have been merged to make two movies that show the rotation of Pluto and revolution of Charon around it.
The movies include 13 exclusive images of Pluto taken during last 6 to 7 days. It has taken New Horizons nine years to come this close to Pluto.