New Horizons has spotted a second mountain range inside Tombaugh Regio, the 1,200-mile-wide (2,000 kilometers) heart-shaped feature that mission team members named after Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh.
This newfound range rises up to 1 mile (1.6 km) above Pluto’s frigid surface, making it comparable in height to the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States, NASA officials said. Tombaugh Regio’s other known mountain range, by contrast, is more similar to the tall and jagged Rocky Mountains, topping out at more than 2 miles (3.2 km) in elevation.
The newly discovered range lies just west of the ice plains known as Sputnik Planum and is 68 miles (110 km) northwest of the taller mountain range, which mission scientists are calling Norgay Montes after Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who along with Edmund Hillary completed the first-ever ascent of Mt. Everest, in 1953. (Tombaugh Regio, Norgay Montes and other such names remain informal monikers until they’re officially approved by the International Astronomical Union.)
A camera aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has started generating tantalizing views of Pluto rotating on its sharply tilted axis, presenting patches of bright and dark material as it spins around a pole that appears to be covered with a cap of ice.
Using “deconvolution” techniques developed to sharpen the images of the Hubble Space Telescope before the spherical aberration in its primary mirror was corrected by spacewalking astronauts in 1990, the New Horizons team has produced still images and animations based on those images with slightly better resolution than the Hubble.