Share

News Release Archive:

News Release 222 of 967

February 4, 2010 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2010-06

New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes

Back

Image: Hubble's Full Photomap of Pluto

Hubble's Full Photomap of Pluto

Screen-use options: These files are created for viewing on your monitor

Print-use download options: These files are designed to fit on letter-size paper


ABOUT THIS IMAGE:

This is the most detailed view to date of the entire surface of the dwarf planet Pluto, as constructed from multiple NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken from 2002 to 2003. NASA's New Horizons space probe, now halfway to Pluto, will get sharper images of Pluto when it is six months away from a close flyby in 2015.

Hubble's view isn't sharp enough to see craters or mountains, if they exist on the surface, but Hubble reveals a complex-looking and variegated world with white, dark-orange, and charcoal-black terrain. The overall color is believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant Sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto's surface, leaving behind a dark, molasses-colored, carbon-rich residue.

Pluto is so small and distant that the task of resolving the surface is as challenging as trying to see the markings on a soccer ball 40 miles away. The Hubble raw images are a few pixels wide. But through a technique called dithering, multiple, slightly offset pictures can be combined through computer-image processing to synthesize a higher-resolution view than could be seen in a single exposure. This series of pictures took four years and 20 computers operating continuously and simultaneously to accomplish.

Object Name: Pluto

Image Type: Astronomical/Illustration

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

NEWS RELEASE IMAGES

All images from this news release:

To access available information and downloadable versions of images in this news release, click on any of the images below: