NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has just announced Thursday their latest images of Pluto’s surface and they have scientists baffled. In recent months, the spacecraft has also sent images of Pluto that make the dwarf planet appear like a mix of lights and colorful blotches, but the “snakelike” landscape revealed by the most recent photos are a mystery to scientists who have studied the images.
“It’s a unique and perplexing landscape stretching over hundreds of miles,” William McKinnon, a deputy lead on the New Horizons project, said during a NASA press release. He also added that it looked “more like a tree bark or dragon scales than geology.” McKinnon speculates that the strange landscape may be the result of a combination of tectonic forces and ice sublimation caused by Pluto’s faint sunlight.
The pictures taken were used with NASA’s New Horizons’ camera, known as the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera, or MVIC. The camera’s infrared channel was used to extend the view of Pluto according to John Spencer, one of the deputy leads from Southwest Research Institute.
“Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a wonderfully complex geological and climatological story that we have only just begun to decode,” Spencer said upon questioning.
Many are eager to see more of Pluto’s mysterious surface so scientists can solve the mystery of why this dwarf planet has a “scaley” landscape.