On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft landed on the dwarf planet Pluto. This is the first time we have seen pictures of this mysterious and snowy world. The space photo of the week was taken by New Horizons fifteen minutes after its closest approach, and in our opinion is one of the most beautiful images of Pluto ever.

The photo shows everything: glaciers, high mountain peaks, fog patches, and ice plains. The most famous ice sheet can be seen on the right. This is also known as the Sputnik Plan Like the heart of PlutoThe Sputnik Planet is no more than ten million years old and is covered with nitrogen ice. How the surface of this part of Pluto is regularly updated is still a mystery. Will the ice rise from the bottom and replace the old ice? Or is there an ice volcano that occasionally causes ice to melt? Astronomers are not yet sure.

Click on it to view the photo in higher resolution.

To the left are several hills. This area is called Tenzing Montes. They are the highest peaks on the distant dwarf planet. Steep icebergs have a slope of forty degrees or more. The highest peak comparable to Kilimanjaro in Kenya is about six kilometers. Pluto’s mountains are probably made of water ice. Methane and nitrogen ice are not possible because the mountains will collapse.

Above you see the details of the larger photo. The mountains of Tenzing Montes can be seen from the front, and the peaks of Hillary Montes can be seen a little further back. Named after the explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, the mountains are about 3.5 km above the surface of Pluto. In height, the mountains are comparable to Mount Fuji (Japan). The area in this photo is 380 km in diameter.

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To the interstellar space
After the flight of Pluto and Charon, New Horizons traveled to Arokot (also known as Ultima Thule). This Kuiper Belt Object The spacecraft was photographed on January 1, 2019At present, New Horizons is moving at a speed of 53,000 kilometers per hour. It’s not the fastest spacecraft to ever launch the New Horizons out of our solar system, as Voyager 1 holds that record (61,146 kilometers per hour). Before Voyager 1, there was a strong gravitational pendulum from the large planets Jupiter and Saturn.

Agenda? Still very empty!
New Horizons has no plans to visit other Kuiper Belt objects. There is not enough fuel to travel to a known object. But … who knows, in the coming years a mysterious distant world may be found lying ‘on the way’. If so, New Horizons can be used for photography. We are waiting in suspense.

Over the past decades, space telescopes and satellites have captured beautiful images of nebulae, galaxies, star nurseries, and planets. Every weekend we remove one or more space photos from the archive. Want to enjoy all the photos? Check them out On this page.