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Tim Kendall's Extreme Astrophysics

Layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere

18 Sep 2015, 10:10 UTC
Layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured a near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across.

Text credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. All the science photos from New Horizons are indexed here.

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