Pluto’s mysterious dark spots make an appearance before scientists

As the New Horizons team continues its countdown to the space probe’s closest approach to Pluto on Tuesday morning, it continues to release snapshots of the icy rock. Today’s image, taken by the black-and-white LORRI camera, shows four evenly-spaced spots on the side that faces Charon, Pluto’s largest moon.


Pluto’s mysterious face … The dark blotches at the bottom of this picture of the dwarf planet have astronomers puzzled – and excited. Source: NASA Source: Supplied


The team has seen these features before, but the extra detail in this shot is important to the mission’s Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team. Pluto and Charon are tidally locked, orbiting around a central point with the same faces always pointing toward each other. That means the dwarf planet’s spotted face will be turned away from New Horizons when it passes by; this is the last time the team will have a chance to see the spots up close.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, seen in an artist’s impression, is expected to take high-resolution color photos of Pluto. (NASA/Reuters)


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