Buy this Surface of Pluto space photo.
High quality Hubble picture, slide, or Duratrans backlit transparency. NASA photograph H96-09a2. Wide variety of sizes.
Click to see selection as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) - March 11, 1996
The never-before-seen surface of the distant planet Pluto is resolved
in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope picture, taken with the European
Space Agency's (ESA) Faint Object Camera (FOC) aboard Hubble.
Discovered in 1930, Pluto has always appeared as nothing more than a
dot of light in even the largest earth-based telescopes because Pluto's
disk is much smaller than can be resolved from beneath the Earth's
turbulent atmosphere. Pluto is 2/3 the size of Earth's Moon but 1,200
times farther away. Viewing surface detail is as difficult as trying
to read the printing on a golf ball located thirty-three miles away!
Hubble imaged nearly the entire surface of Pluto, as it rotated through
its 6.4-day period, in late June and early July 1994. This image shows that Pluto is an unusually complex
object, with more large-scale contrast than any planet, except Earth. Pluto itself probably shows even more contrast and perhaps sharper
boundaries between light and dark areas than is shown here, but
Hubble's resolution (just like early telescopic views of Mars) tends to
blur edges and blend together small features sitting inside larger
ones. North is up. 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 tile pattern is an artifact of the image enhancement technique. Some of the
variations across Pluto's surface may be caused by topographic features
such as basins, or fresh impact craters. However, most of the surface
features unveiled by Hubble, including the prominent northern polar
cap, are likely produced by the complex distribution of frosts that
migrate across Pluto's surface with its orbital and seasonal cycles and
chemical byproducts deposited out of Pluto's nitrogen-methane
atmosphere. This picture was taken in blue light when Pluto was at a distance of 3
billion miles from Earth.
March 7, 1996
Credit: Alan Stern (Southwest Research Institute), Marc Buie (Lowell
Observatory), NASA and ESA