The NASA New Horizons spacecraft has made history by sending us back images of Pluto and its moons that are the highest resolution humans have ever laid eyes on. While the images of Pluto itself were sharp and clear allowing us to see the surface of the dwarf planet in detail, the images of its moons are not so clear. The shot here is an image of Pluto’s moon Nix on the left and Hydra on the right.
The image is an enhanced color image shot by the Ralph instrument aboard New Horizons. Nix has a reddish spot on its surface that has puzzled scientists. The data in the images was taken on July 14 and received on Earth July 18. The observation of Nix was made when New Horizons was about 102,000 miles from the moon.
Nix is 26 miles long and 22 miles wide. The image resolution shows features on the surface of the moon that are about 2 miles across. Hydra is a small and irregularly shaped moon and the right side image was taken using the New Horizons LORRI instrument on July 14 from a distance of about 143,000 miles. Features as small as 0.7 miles are visible on the surface of Hydra in the image taken by New Horizons.
Scientists speculate that the reddish area on Nix is a crater left from an impact with the surface. Hydra appears to have at least two large craters resulting from impacts. These two moons aren’t the only imaged by New Horizons, shots of Styx and Kerberos are expected to be transmitted to Earth by mid-October.