Scientists of NASA’s New Horizons mission have assembled the highest-resolution colour view of one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of the distant planet by the passing spacecraft in July of last year.
At about 150 kilometres (90 miles) across and 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) high, the feature – informally named Wright Mons – is enormous. If it is in fact a volcano, as suspected, it would be the largest such feature discovered in the outer Solar System.
Mission scientists are intrigued by the sparse distribution of red material in the image and wonder why it is not more widespread. Also perplexing is that there is only one identified impact crater on Wright Mons itself, telling scientists that the surface (as well as some of the crust underneath) was created relatively recently. This is turn may indicate that Wright Mons was volcanically active late in Pluto’s history.
This composite image includes pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on 14 July 2015, from a range of about 48,000 kilometres (30,000 miles), showing features as small as 450 metres (1,500 feet) across. Sprinkled across the LORRI mosaic is enhanced colour data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) gathered about 20 minutes after the LORRI snapshots were taken, from a range of 34,000 kilometres (21,000 miles) and at a resolution of about 650 metres (2,100 feet) per pixel. The entire scene is 230 kilometres (140 miles) across.