Scientists are wowed by new images sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft following a July 14 flyby of the dwarf planet. It will take a year for all the data to be delivered, but NASA is already poring over and releasing fresh close-ups.
This image covers a 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide area of Pluto. It highlights ancient cratered areas next to smoother, younger regions. The ridged area in the center may be a series of dunes.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft didn't fly millions of miles just to stare at only Pluto. It also took time out to capture images of its moons, including Charon.
Charon is Pluto's largest moon. This detailed image was taken during New Horizons' closest approach to the dwarf planet. Charon is 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) in diameter and shows both smooth terrain areas and a network of surface fractures.
Scientists know a lot more about Pluto's atmosphere thanks to a new set of images taken of the dwarf planet.
NASA explains: "This image of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, processed in two different ways, shows how Pluto’s bright, high-altitude atmospheric haze produces a twilight that softly illuminates the surface before sunrise and after sunset, allowing the sensitive cameras on New Horizons to see details in nighttime regions that would otherwise be invisible."
While many images were taken on the way to New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto, the spacecraft also delivered some fascinating looks back. These pictures of Pluto's dark side were captured 16 hours after the close approach from 480,000 miles (770,000 kilometers) away.
The right-hand image has been processed to highlight the layers of haze in Pluto's atmosphere.
This image from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was taken during a flyby on July 14. It shows an area 300 miles across filled with chaotic terrain NASA describes as "jumbled." The dramatic surface features were seen when New Horizons was at a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers) away.
An enhanced color image of Pluto was released by NASA on August 12. It's a combination of four images taken by the New Horizons' spacecraft. Pluto's "heart" is evident in the lower right hand area of the dwarf planet.
New Horizons is near the start of a yearlong data downlink that will send more detailed images back to Earth.