Like a cosmic lava lamp, a large section of Pluto's icy surface is being constantly renewed by a process called convection that replaces older surface ices with fresher material.
Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission used state-of-the-art computer simulations to show that the surface of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum is covered with churning ice "cells" that are geologically young and turning over due to a process called convection. The scene above, which is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) across, uses data from the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), gathered July 14, 2015. Their findings are published in the June 2, 2016, issue of the journal Nature .
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
|Target Type||Dwarf Planet||KBO|
|Instrument Host||New Horizons|
|Host Type||Flyby Spacecraft|
|Instrument||Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC)|
|Date in Caption||2015-07-14||2016-06-02|
|Image Credit||NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute|