Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pluto as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope!

Pluto as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope!
Click on the image to enlarge

This is the best shot of Pluto to date, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show an icy, mottled, dark molasses-colored world undergoing seasonal surface color and brightness changes. 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. Astronomers were very surprised to see that Pluto's brightness has changed - the northern pole is brighter and the southern hemisphere is darker and redder. Summer is approaching Pluto's north pole, and this may cause surface ices to melt and refreeze in the colder shadowed portion of the planet. The Hubble pictures underscore that Pluto is not simply a ball of ice and rock but a dynamic world that undergoes dramatic atmospheric changes.
Credit: NASA, ESA and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)
Image enhancement: Jean-Baptiste Faure

4 comment(s):

Catherine Laplace-Builhe said...

WOW !! J'ai toujours adoré cette photo ! Merci Jean -Baptiste !

Jean-Baptiste Faure said...

Le plaisir est pour moi Catherine !!

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