New Horizons Pluto Science Data Revealed

So far, all we have seen of Pluto is the images that New Horizons took as it sped past the former planet. Months after that flyby was completed the first of the scientific data that the probe recorded is finally being unveiled. This week scientists studying that data have published the first overview of what the probe discovered about Pluto.

New Horizons mission head Alan Stern says that Pluto and Charon, its largest moon, rival the Earth and Marsin in terms of geological landform diversity. The team says that Pluto and Charon are far from the dead worlds that most thought them to be.

There is evidence of glacial flows and other tectonic features that point to geological activity inside the planet and its largest moon recently. Scientists thought that after 4.5 billion years of cooling that the planet wouldn't be active, and they are surprised to see signs of recent geological activity.

Proof of that activity is noted in the famous heart-shaped feature on Pluto with the smooth left lobe having no craters at all. Stern says that if Pluto wasn't geologically active you would see craters and pockmarks on that feature. New Horizons also raised another mystery surrounding Nix and Hydra, two smaller of Pluto's moons. Both of those moons are nearly twice as reflective as Charon and the reason why is unknown. New data will certainly keep coming in, so far, NASA has downloaded only 15% of what New Horizons collected.

SOURCE: Popular Mechanics