Today's Image

Pluto terrain in rainbow colors

Planet Pluto with large areas of green, teal, orange, and magenta on differently textured areas.
False-color image of Pluto, shared by NASA on Instagram on July 19, 2022. Image via NASA/ JHUAPL/ SwRI.

NASA shared this photo of Pluto in a rich array of colors on its Instagram account this week (July 19, 2022). It’s the famous image of Pluto’s heart, captured by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015, translated to false color. Astronomers sometimes create false-color images of their target objects, in order to highlight the subtle differences between types of terrain or the composition of an atmosphere. NASA explained:

Pluto isn’t really a psychedelic riot of colors. New Horizons scientists created this translated color image to highlight the many subtle color differences between the planet’s distinct regions.

Pluto has a complex, varied surface. Jumbled mountains reminiscent of Europa, networks of carved-out valleys and old, heavily cratered terrain sit right next to new, smooth icy plains, and even what might be wind-blown dunes.

New Horizons launched on January 19, 2006, and conducted a six-month-long flyby study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. The spacecraft continues to explore the distant solar system, heading farther into the Kuiper belt.

Slightly-greater-than-half moon, in false color.
Here’s another amazing, rainbow-hued false-color image, this time of the moon, to help you see the differences in terrain better.

Bottom line: Take a look at Pluto in this rich false-color image. The colors help to highlight the differences in the dwarf planet’s terrain.

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July 23, 2022
Today's Image

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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