First global maps of Pluto and Charon show the worlds’ highs and lows | Science News

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First global maps of Pluto and Charon show the worlds’ highs and lows

Made with New Horizons’ data, the charts reveal never-before-seen details

By
4:50pm, July 13, 2018
Pluto mountains

UPS AND DOWNS  This view shows Pluto’s highest mountains, which rise 3 to 6 kilometers above the smooth nitrogen-ice plains of Sputnik Planitia. New maps of Pluto’s topography show more details of familiar landscapes like this one.

The first global maps of Pluto and its moon Charon are now available, putting a bookend on NASA’s New Horizons mission.

“From a completionist’s point of view, they are all the good data we have, stitched together into a coherent, complete mosaic,” says planetary scientist Ross Beyer of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

The charts focus on the 42 percent of Pluto and 45 percent of Charon where New Horizons snapped images from at least two angles during its 2015 flyby, revealing the landscapes’ height and depth (SN: 6/27/15, p. 16).

These measurements add topographic detail to already familiar features. For instance, the smooth plains of Pluto’s distinctive, heart-shaped ice sheet, known as Sputnik Planitia, lie two to three kilometers below the region’s rim

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