It was meant to send back answers, but the New Horizons space probe flyby of Pluto is rather inciting more questions about the dwarf planet. But scientists are no less delighted, saying the findings document geological formations never before conceived.
The New Horizons spacecraft launched in January 2006. More than nine years passed before it went as close as 7,750 miles to Pluto and as far as 3.1 billion miles from Earth. What New Horizons has managed to send back, in the four hours and 25 minutes it took for data to reach Earth, reveals a very different Pluto from that which was expected.
Cold and distant, but with “a big surprise”
Being so far away from the sun, Pluto might be thought of as cold and distant. But new, awe-inspiring images are warming scientists, some of whom previously imagined nothing more than a crater or scar-ridden surface with little else to show for its formation.