Latest in Science

Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Photo of Pluto's north pole shows its ancient frozen canyons

That's not bread in the picture -- that's Pluto's northern region.


NASA has released another close-up of the most beloved dwarf planet, this time focusing on its northern polar area. If Pluto's heart-shaped region has a cracked ice plain, mountain ranges and craters, its north pole has frozen canyons much older than any of the others found elsewhere on its surface. Their deteriorating walls made of weaker materials are proof of their age, as Pluto's younger canyons look more sharply defined. That means the space agency has to study them if it wants to look more closely into the very early years of the dwarf planet's tectonic activities.

The canyon highlighted in the annotated version of the image below is the biggest one, with a width measuring 45 miles. Those green squiggles beside it are smaller, six-mile-wide canyons, while the pink and blue ones are valleys. The places colored in red are pits -- NASA believes they were caused by the ground giving out after the ice underneath melted or sublimated.

Note that the area in this image is part of Lowell Regio, named after Lowell Observatory founder Percival Lowell whose efforts led to Pluto's discovery. It was captured by New Horizons' Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) before its closest approach in July 2015. Now, if you've had enough of Pluto and all its photos, you may want to set a countdown timer. NASA's Juno mission will reach the gas giant in 130 days, almost five years after it took off.

From around the web