Last week, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft began sending stunning shots of Pluto on its flyover back to the Earth. Here is a beautiful Pluto flyover video created from the images acquired by New Horizons’ closest-approach to the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015.
The animated video above shows Pluto’s Norgay Montes (Norgay Mountains) and Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain) on its surface. Norgay Montes have been informally named for Tenzing Norgay (29 May 1914 – 9 May 1986), commonly known as Sherpa Tenzing, a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer, one of the first two humans to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Sputnik Planum is informally named for Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, the Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. The images were acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers). Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible.
The mountains crest 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) above Pluto’s surface. NASA estimates they were formed only 100 million years ago, quite young for the planetary time scale.
Our own Himalaya’s, for example, generally thought to have arisen from the collision of India and Asia 55 million years ago. But according to a controversial new dating study, they may be more than 450 million years old – nine times older than previously estimated.
Update – July 14, 2017
NASA has published a new video titled “New Horizons Flyover of Pluto” on July 14, 2017. The New Horizons spacecraft traveled more than 3 billion miles (more than 4.8 billion km) to reach Pluto. Scientists at NASA have used the mission data to create flyovers that are even closer than the actual spacecraft.
From the description of the video:
“Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself.”
“This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with the blocky mountain ranges located within the plains seen on the right. The tour moves north past the rugged and fractured highlands of Voyager Terra and then turns southward over Pioneer Terra — which exhibits deep and wide pits — before concluding over the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa in the far east of the encounter hemisphere.”