Pluto may have spots the size of Missouri

Pluto and Charon in orbit

Pluto and Charon show off two of their sides in pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Each of the dark spots on Pluto (orange, right) is roughly the size of Missouri.


A chain of enigmatic dark spots mark the surface of Pluto in recent New Horizons images, taken when the spacecraft was about 22 million kilometers from the dwarf planet. Each splotch is about 500 kilometers across and covers roughly the same area as the state of Missouri.

The pictures, taken on June 25 and 27, show two faces of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, in true color; this is how the duo would appear to a human along for the ride. The original images, taken by the spacecraft’s zoom lens, are in black-and-white; the color comes from recent low-resolution images taken by the probe’s wide-field camera.

For more on the flyby, read SN‘s feature, “Rendezvous with Pluto.”

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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