“My jaw was on the ground when I saw this first image of an alien atmosphere in the Kuiper Belt,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern said in a statement. “It reminds us that exploration brings us more than just incredible discoveries -- it brings incredible beauty.”
"You could only get this image by going to Pluto, crossing to the far side, and looking back," Stern said at a news conference on Friday.
NASA scientists believe that the hazes form when sunlight breaks apart methane gas. Methane, which is a simple hydrocarbon, produces more complex hydrocarbons when it breaks down. These hydrocarbons -- ethylene and acetylene -- fall down into the lower, colder regions of the atmosphere and form ice particles.
These icy complex hydrocarbons, when exposed to more sunlight, form tholins -- dark hydrocarbons that give Pluto's surface its dark red hues.