Surface and Interior
First images of Pluto's surface
Hubble Space Telescope Images of Pluto's Surface
The surface of Pluto is resolved for the first time
in these NASA Hubble Space Telescope pictures, taken with the European
Space Agency's (ESA) Faint Object Camera (FOC) in 1994
which were made in blue light, show that Pluto
has more large-scale contrast than any planet except Earth.
The two smaller inset pictures at the top are actual images from
Hubble of opposite hemispheres of Pluto.
Each square pixel (picture element) is more than
100 miles across. At this resolution, Hubble discerns roughly 12 major
"regions" where the surface is either bright or dark.
The larger images (bottom) are from a global map constructed through
computer image processing performed on the Hubble data. The tile
pattern is an artifact of the image enhancement technique
Here is a Hubble Space Telescope
movie of Pluto rotating.
Surface map of Pluto (Hubble Space Telescope-Faint Object Camera)
A Map of Pluto's Surface
The preceding figure
is the first image-based surface map of
Pluto. This map was assembled by computer image
processing software from four separate images of Pluto's disk, as described
The map covers 85% of the planet's surface and indicates that Pluto
has a dark equatorial belt and bright polar caps.
The brightness variations in this map may be due to topographic
features such as basins and fresh impact craters. However, most of the
surface features are likely produced by
frosts that migrate across Pluto's surface with its
orbital and seasonal cycles
Atmosphere and Interior
Pluto isn't large enough to retain much of an atmosphere, but it has a thin one
that appears to be mostly nitrogen with some methane. We know essentially
nothing about Pluto's interior at this point.