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25 Sep, 2015 14:17

'More dragon scales than geology': Pluto like we've never seen it before (PHOTOS)

'More dragon scales than geology': Pluto like we've never seen it before (PHOTOS)

New hi-res photographs sent from NASA's space probe show Pluto's surface in detail and color, turning a page in the study of the dwarf planet. It appears Pluto has an extraordinarily rich palette and the pattern of the surface already dubbed ‘snakeskin’.

It’s difficult to resist staring at these brand-spanking new images direct from NASA’s New Horizon space probe that reveal Pluto’s surface in living color.

READ MORE: Stunning tour over Pluto's icy terrain (VIDEO)

The elaborate ‘snakeskin’ pattern of the surface led the New Horizon’s team’s deputy lead from Washington University St Louis to state that “It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology. This’ll really take time to figure out; maybe it’s some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto’s faint sunlight.”


If Earth is often referred to as the blue planet, this fresh data depicts Pluto as the chocolate and vanilla planet as we see a warm palette of different shades of cream and brown.

READ MORE: Amazing video shows journey to Pluto through lens of NASA New Horizons spacecraft

However there’s more than meets the eye.

“We used MVIC’s infrared channel to extend our spectral view of Pluto,” said John Spencer, a GGI deputy lead from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “Pluto’s surface colors were enhanced in this view to reveal subtle details in a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a wonderfully complex geological and climatological story that we have only just begun to decode.”


The photographs show a diverse terrain revealing features that resemble dunes, mountains and an older shoreline of a shrinking glacial ice lake.

Ice made of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane flows on Pluto’s surface as glaciers flow on Earth.

READ MORE: Pluto’s hazy atmosphere, flowing nitrogen ice glaciers stun scientists (PHOTOS)

According to Bill McKinnon, New Horizons co-investigator of Washington University in St. Louis, the formation of the plains and ice flows on the surface were probably caused by “heat leaking out of the interior of Pluto,” and there may be an internal ocean that could be emitting heat.


Compositional samples prove how Pluto varies from area to area with certain regions having plenty of methane while others have none.

The distribution of methane across the surface is highly complex, with higher concentrations on bright plains and crater rims, but usually none in the centers of craters or darker regions.