Scientists have found vast frozen plains next door to Pluto’s big, rugged mountains of water ice.
The New Horizons spacecraft team revealed close-up photos of those plains Friday, three days after the historic flyby. Scientists have unofficially named the plains after Sputnik, the world’s first man-made satellite.
Spanning a couple hundred miles, the plains are located in the bright, heart-shaped area of Pluto. Like the mountains unveiled Wednesday, the plains look to be a relatively young 100 million years old. Scientists speculate internal heating – perhaps from volcanoes or geysers- might be responsible for these youthful-looking, crater-free regions. The plains appear to include smooth hills and fields of small pits.
Principal scientist Alan Stern says the pictures coming from 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) away are ”beautiful eye candy.”