Psychedelic Pluto
Pluto's distinct regions have subtle colour differences, scientists have shown in a psychedelic imageNasa

A new image released by Nasa shows splashes of colour on Pluto's surface. The false colour image by New Horizons, an interplanetary robotic spacecraft, paints the dwarf planet in multiple hues.

Scientists made the image using a technique called principal component analysis to highlight the "many subtle colour differences between Pluto's distinct regions," the space agency said. The image data were collected by the colour camera of the spacecraft during its Pluto flyby on 14 July, from a range of 22,000 miles (35,000km).

New Horizons scientists called the image "A cornucopia of colour, just in time for Fall."

The colourful image of Pluto was presented by Will Grundy of the New Horizons' surface composition team at the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in National Harbor, Maryland, on 9 November.

During the flyby, the spacecraft also collected data that indicate that two of Pluto's most distinctive mountains could be ice volcanoes that "may have been active in the recent geological past."

"If Pluto is proven to have volcanoes, it will provide an important new clue to its geologic and atmospheric evolution. After all, nothing like this has been seen in the deep outer solar system," said New Horizons geologist Jeffrey Moore.

Scientists are also examining Pluto's moons and their unusual properties such as the fast spinning of the moons as compared to that of the Earth. Data collected from the spacecraft has also busted earlier beliefs about Pluto's atmosphere. According to scientists, gases escape the planet's atmosphere by the same mechanism as do gases from the atmospheres of Earth and Mars.