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Amazing Photo of the Day: The Icy Mountains of Pluto

Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 12:48:03 pm

Here it is, folks: the first high resolution close-up image of the surface of Pluto from the New Horizon spacecraft: The Icy Mountains of Pluto.

New close-up images of a region near Pluto's equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.

The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago -- mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system -- and may still be in the process of building, says Jeff Moore of New Horizons' Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI). That suggests the close-up region, which covers less than one percent of Pluto's surface, may still be geologically active today.

Moore and his colleagues base the youthful age estimate on the lack of craters in this scene. Like the rest of Pluto, this region would presumably have been pummeled by space debris for billions of years and would have once been heavily cratered -- unless recent activity had given the region a facelift, erasing those pockmarks.

"This is one of the youngest surfaces we've ever seen in the solar system," says Moore.

A NASA video shows where this section of Pluto is located:

YouTube