Dazzling false color: Scientists combined close-up images with color data from the Ralph instrument, creating a false color portrait of Pluto. The two bluish-white “lobes” that extend southwest and northeast from the “heart” may indicate shifting exotic ices.
A farewell to Pluto: Backlit by the sun, Pluto’s atmosphere shines like a halo.
Pluto’s flowing ice: Toward the north of Sputnik Planum, dark swirls suggest that a surface layer of ice has flowed around obstacles and into depressions, similar to glaciers.
Hillary Montes: Rising about one mile above the surrounding terrain, this newly discovered range of mountains is similar in height to the Appalachian Mountains. They have been informally named the Hillary Montes for Sir Edmund Hillary, who first summited Mount Everest in 1953.
Sputnik Planum’s southern region: Rich in complexity, this region includes Pluto’s icy plains to the northeast, two mountain ranges and an area where it appears that ancient, heavily cratered terrain has been invaded by much newer icy deposits. The “infilled crater,” labeled above, is about 30 miles wide, approximately the size of the greater D.C. area.
Nix and Hydra, the second and third moons: Nix, pictured here on the left with enhanced colors, reveals a reddish region. Hints of a bull’s-eye pattern could mean the area is a crater. Hydra, on the right, shows at least two large craters. It's upper portion looks darker, indicating possible variations in surface composition.
Animated flyover of Pluto's Norgay Montes: Using New Horizons' images, NASA created this animated flyover of Pluto's icy mountains, now named the Norgay Montes. Click here to see the full video.
Sputnik Planum and the Norgay Montes: A close-up of Tombaugh Reggio, also known as the heart of Pluto, with two newly named areas: Sputnik Planum and the Norgay Montes. The Norgay Montes were informally named for Tenzing Norgay, one of the first people to reach Mount Everest's summit.
Sputnik Planum's frozen plains: This area presents a stark contrast to the nearby Norgay Montes, which soar as high as the Rocky Mountains. Scientists said the lack of craters means the area is less than 100 million years old. The knobby hills in other parts could be made of harder material that resisted erosion, or they could have been pushed to the surface by tectonic activity. Pitting in the lower right, which resembles pitting in glaciers on Earth, will become clearer in later images.
An ion tail behind Pluto: New Horizons has already revealed much about Pluto’s atmosphere and the solar wind around it. The atmosphere is sluggish rather than turbulent, and it is mostly made of nitrogen. Because of Pluto’s weak gravity, about 500 tons per hour of atmospheric material — nitrogen ice — appears to be evaporating and escaping into space, carried by solar wind. (Mars, by comparison, loses about one ton per hour.)
Pluto’s icy mountains: Tombaugh Reggio. Scientists have not yet found a single impact crater on this surface. This means that this is likely a very young surface, probably less than 100 million years old. It might even be active right now. Mountains up to 11,000 feet high are visible and tens of miles wide.
Captivating features on Charon: The image here shows an area approximately 240 miles from top to bottom, including few visible craters and a depression with a peak in the middle. The image was taken on July 14 before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto.
Young and varied terrain on Charon, one of Pluto’s moons: A series of troughs and cliffs extend about 600 miles across the moon as a distinct line, possibly due to internal processes. Below the line is a relatively smooth area that may have been geologically active, therefore resurfacing the area. Toward the top right is a deep canyon, around 4 to 6 miles deep. At the north pole is a dark spot that could be just a thin veneer.
Methane ice on Pluto: Spectra from the New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance and variation of methane ice across the frozen surface of Pluto. The north polar cap is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice.