'Psychedelic Pluto': NASA releases stunning rainbow-colored image of dwarf planet
According to NASA, scientists created the image using a technique called principal component analysis, which highlights the “many subtle color differences between Pluto's distinct regions.” The exaggerated colors make it easy for scientists to determine the varied texture and composition of Pluto's surface.
The original photo was taken by the Ralph/MVIC color camera on the New Horizons spacecraft during its historic flyby of the dwarf planet in mid-July. It was snapped from a range of 22,000 miles.
This is just the latest in a string of photos released from the flyby. Last month, an image was released showing the dwarf planet's crescent. Other photos released in October showed Pluto's tiniest moon, which measures just five miles across, and its largest moon, Charon.
Some of the images have proven to be highly beneficial to NASA scientists, allowing them to make over 50 new discoveries – from icy volcanoes on the dwarf planet's surface to 'drunken' spinning moons.
“The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down,” Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a Monday press release.
Counting crater impacts photographed by the spacecraft have also allowed scientists to determine that Pluto could be over 4 billion years old.
The breathtaking images were a long time in the making. It took New Horizons nine years to reach the dwarf planet. It finally flew by the planet at a distance of only 7,750 miles (12,500km) on July 14, snapping images at a resolution of a quality up to 400 meters per pixel.
It will take about 16 months for the spacecraft to transmit to Earth all of the thousands of images and measurements taken during its flyby.
Often described as resembling a foil-covered grand piano, New Horizons is 27 inches (70cm) tall, 83 inches (2.1 meters) long, and 108 inches (2.7 meters) wide. It weighed 1,054lb (478kg) at launch.