The first global maps of Pluto and his moon Charon are now available and represent a bookend of NASA's "New Horizons" mission.
"From a completing company's point of view, all the good data we have compiled is coherent 'complete mosaic,' says planetary scientist Ross Beyer of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
The charts focus on the 42 percent of Pluto and 45 percent of Charon, where New Horizons has taken pictures from at least two angles, his flyby in 2015, which reveals the height and depth of the landscapes ( SN: 27.06 .15, p. 16 ).
These measurements complement already known features with topographical details. For example, the smooth plains of Pluto's distinctive, heart-shaped ice sheet known as Sputnik Planitia are two to three kilometers below the edge of the region.
The biggest surprise on Pluto is a 3,200-kilometer system of ridges and troughs that trace a single long line over the dwarf planet. This strip could extend around the globe, Beyer and colleagues report on June 1
1 in Icarus . This function is only visible with all data, says Beyer. The team has no good explanation yet for his education has
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Charon's map confirmed that the Moon consists of two major zones: smooth plains in the southern hemisphere and broken blocks and ravines in Im North reported Beyer and colleagues online on July 3 in another work in Icarus ( SN: 4/2/16, p.20 ). At first, the scientists thought both were terrains at the same altitude, but the new map shows that the plains are a mile or two lower than the northern one.
"We do not know why this is so, but it's certainly interesting," Beyer says Scientists will use these maps to continue to reveal the secrets of Pluto and Charon. "These maps are truly the basis, the cartographic basis for everything that another scientist will do," says Beyer.