Research Secrets- Revealed from Pluto’s ‘Twilight Zone’ Video - Physics-Astronomy.org

Research Secrets- Revealed from Pluto’s ‘Twilight Zone’ Video

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took this dramatic picture of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The picture was obtained at a high phase angle –that is, with the sun on the other surface of Pluto, as view by New Horizons. Seen here, sunshine filters through and illuminates Pluto’s complex atmospheric haze layers. The southern portion of the nitrogen ice plains casually named Sputnik Planum, as well as mountains of the casually named Norgay Montes, can also be seen across Pluto’s crescent at the top of the picture.
Looking back at Pluto with images like this gives New Horizons scientists information about Pluto’s hazes and surface property that they can’t get from images in use on approach. The image was obtained by New Horizons’ Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) about 13,400 miles (21,550 kilometers) from Pluto, about 19 minutes following New Horizons’ closest move toward. The image has a resolution of 1,400 feet (430 meters) per pixel.  Pluto’s diameter is 1,475 miles (2,374 kilometers).
The inset at top right shows a detail of Pluto’s semi-circular, including an intriguing bright wisp (near the center) measuring tens of miles crossways that may be a discreet, low-lying  cloud in Pluto’s atmosphere; if so, it would be the just one yet recognized in New Horizons imagery. This cloud – if that’s what it is – is visible for the same cause the haze layers are so bright: illumination from the sunlight grazing Pluto’s surface at a low down angle. Atmospheric models suggest that methane clouds can infrequently form in Pluto’s atmosphere. The scene in this inset is 140 miles (230 kilometers) across.
The inset at bottom right shows more feature on the night side of Pluto. This terrain can be seen because it is illuminated from at the back by hazes that silhouette the limb. The topography here appear quite rugged, and broad valleys and sharp peaks with relief totaling 3 miles (5 kilometers) are obvious.  This image, made from closer range, is a great deal better than the lower-resolution images of this similar terrain taken several days before closest move toward.  These silhouetted terrains therefore act as a helpful “anchor point,” giving New Horizons scientists a rare, complete glimpse at the lay of the land in this strange part of Pluto seen at high resolution only in twilight. The sight in this inset is 460 miles (750 kilometers) wide.

Research Secrets- Revealed from Pluto’s ‘Twilight Zone’ Video

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