Behold: the mountainous shoreline of Sputnik Planum. (credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Finally, the highest resolution images are in from the edge of the solar system. Late Friday NASA released pictures of Pluto's varied terrain with a resolution of 77 to 85 meters per pixel, and these eye-popping images bring us even more detail about a complex world with cratered, mountainous terrain.

The photos of Sputnik Planum show a range of mountains crammed together, before abruptly running into the relatively flat left side of Pluto's heart. "The new details revealed here, particularly the crumpled ridges in the rubbly material surrounding several of the mountains, reinforce our earlier impression that the mountains are huge ice blocks that have been jostled and tumbled and somehow transported to their present locations," said New Horizons science team member John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute.

The higher resolution photos will allow scientists to better understand Pluto's puzzling geology, which has surprised with an active surface that indicates the presence of interior heating. For example, in the photo below, features such as layering and the interior of crater walls can be seen. With additional analysis, this should provide a snapshot of Pluto's geological history and provide some answers about the dwarf planet's curious evolution.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments