Poor, misunderstood Pluto. It’s suffered quite the identity crisis these last several years (anyone else remember when the dwarf planet was an actual planet, and also when it was not a planet at all?), but that hasn’t stopped scientists from attempting to learn more about out distant friend. And while it’ll probably be a while yet before any human being sets foot on Pluto, we’re being given a closer look than ever before thanks to a new mosaic strip from NASA.
Heralded as “the most detailed view of Pluto’s terrain you’ll see for a very long time,” the strip is comprised of various images collected by the New Horizons spacecraft. While NASA previously displayed an incomplete set of photographs from the Pluto mission, this is the first time that such a detailed compendium has been published. The images all come from July 14, 2015, and boast a resolution of around 260 feet (80 meters) per pixel. According to NASA, the latest images from the probe give “New Horizons scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain on Pluto, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them.”
The findings certainly have researchers thrilled, providing previously unseen insights into one of our solar system’s most mysterious entities. “This new image product is just magnetic,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “It makes me want to go back on another mission to Pluto and get high-resolution images like these across the entire surface.”
The strip actually displays an impressive 55 miles of Pluto’s terrain, and not entirely coincidentally, on Tuesday, Pluto even got a new Forever stamp in its honor.
“The unveiling of these breathtaking new images of Pluto and our planets will be an exciting day for NASA and for all who love space exploration,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With the 2015 Pluto flyby, we’ve completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, and we’re grateful to the U.S. Postal Service for commemorating this historic achievement.”