It’s been two years since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back images from its Pluto flyover, depicting never-before-seen features like the dwarf planet’s now iconic “heart.” Last week, a team of scientists from the mission released detailed maps of Pluto and its moon, Charon, along with new digitally rendered videos created using topographical data collected during the spacecraft’s flyovers.
The Pluto flyover starts in the highlands southwest of a nitrogen ice plain called Sputnik Planitia and passes over Sputnik’s western border toward Cthulu Macula, a region dotted with impact craters and scattered mountain ranges. Flying north, the video passes over Voyager Terra, a region of rough highlands, and head southward to Pioneer Terra, marked by deep pits. The journey ends in a flyover the eastern region of Tartarus Dorsa.
Charon’s flyover is perhaps less anticipated — few people are as sentimental about the moon than they are about Pluto — but it’s no less impressive. Approaching from the same angle as New Horizons, the journey drops down to observe the Serenity Canyon, turning north to fly over Dorothy Gale crater (named after the Wizard of Oz protagonist) and Mordor Macula (named after the black land in The Lord of the Rings). Heading south, the film passes over Oz Terra (notice a pattern here?) and concludes at Vulcan Planum and the Clarke Mountains, a unique feature described as mountains within a moat.
“This is a feature that has geologists stunned and stumped,” Jeff Moore, who leads New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team, said in a statement in 2015.
Neither Pluto nor Charon looked to New Horizons exactly as they appear here in these movies. For one thing, the viewers vantage point is much closer in the video than the spacecraft had itself. The topographic features have also been emphasized two to three times to make them more visible to the viewer. The bodies’ surface colors have also been enhanced to make them pop.
The last data recorded by New Horizons during its flyby Pluto was received on October 25, 2016. Since then the spacecraft has maneuvered to do a flyby of a Kupier Belt object — 1 billion miles beyond the orbit of Neptune — on New Year’s Day 2019.
- University of Michigan hopes new drone facility pushes students to great heights
- Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier
- Here’s what’s new on Amazon Prime Video in May 2018
- The all-new Lexus UX crossover comes to America for the first time
- Not exactly a Prius: New Rimac electric hypercar is packing 1,900 horsepower