Pluto’s icy mountains have company. NASA’s New Horizons mission has discovered a new, apparently less lofty mountain range on the lower-left edge of Pluto’s best known feature, the bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region).
New Horizons was developed in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. The Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility can double as a payload processing facility and a hazardous processing facility. It is environmentally controlled by a Class 5,000 air at filter discharge. The temperature remains at 70 F, plus or minus 5 F. An emergency exhaust system is provided for diluting and removing hazardous fuel and oxidizer vapors.
These newly-discovered frozen peaks are estimated to be one-half mile to one mile high, about the same height as the United States’ Appalachian Mountains. The Norgay Montes (Norgay Mountains) discovered by New Horizons on July 15 more closely approximate the height of the taller Rocky Mountains.
The new range is just west of the region within Pluto’s heart called Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain). The peaks lie some 68 miles northwest of Norgay Montes.
This newest image further illustrates the remarkably well-defined topography along the western edge of Tombaugh Regio.
“There is a pronounced difference in texture between the younger, frozen plains to the east and the dark, heavily-cratered terrain to the west,” says Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “There’s a complex interaction going on between the bright and the dark materials that we’re still trying to understand.”
While Sputnik Planum is believed to be relatively young in geological terms — perhaps less than 100 million years old — the darker region probably dates back billions of years. Moore notes that the bright, sediment-like material appears to be filling in old craters (for example, the bright circular feature to the lower left of center).
This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile across are visible. The names of features on Pluto have all been given on an informal basis by the New Horizons team.
Release Date: July 22, 2015