Nasa has just released a number of stunning photos and videos of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, taken by the New Horizons probe during its historic flyby in 2015. According to the space agency, New Horizons captured over 1,200 photos and collected 10GB worth of data, which took over a year to reach Earth. However, they are now finally available and Nasa has published the most striking images that show the "spectacular new perspectives" of the dwarf planet.
Among other things, New Horizons took pictures of Pluto's mountains and plains, capturing the dwarf planet's "heart", which according to Nasa, is "about the same distance as from Denver to Chicago". The probe also photographed Pluto's "chaotically jumbled mountains" some of which are around 11,000 feet high.
"This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia," Nasa said in a statement, describing New Horizons' journey.
"The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra -- which exhibits deep and wide pits -- before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere."
Blue foggy haze and water ice discovered
The new images reveal that Pluto has several layers to its global atmospheric haze, which according to Nasa, "creates a twilight effect that softly illuminates nightside terrain near sunset".
New Horizons also discovered traces of water ice in certain regions of the dwarf planet. However, the origins and function of the water ice are still a mystery to scientists.
Nasa also recently released new maps of Pluto and its moon Charon.
"The equally exciting flight over Charon begins high over the hemisphere New Horizons saw on its closest approach, then descends over the deep, wide canyon of Serenity Chasma. The view moves north, passing over Dorothy Gale crater and the dark polar hood of Mordor Macula. The flight then turns south, covering the northern terrain of Oz Terra before ending over the relatively flat equatorial plains of Vulcan Planum and the 'moated mountains' of Clarke Montes," Nasa said.