According to the first close-up images released from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, icy mountain ranges can be seen rising from Pluto’s surface. The mountains’ elevation reaches 11,000 feet (3,400 meters). A close-up section of Pluto that showed no sign of craters. NASA said the findings suggest that Pluto is geologically active, and contains parts that are youthful in astronomical terms. Scientists also assumed that the bedrock that makes those mountains must be made of H20, of water-ice.
New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as part of NASA’s New Frontiers program.
New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006, from Cape Canaveral, directly into an Earth-and-solar-escape trajectory with an Earth-relative speed of about 16.26 kilometers per second.
The goal of the mission is to understand the formation of the Pluto system, the Kuiper belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System.
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Why Pluto is no longer considered a Planet?
For an object to be a planet, it needs to meet these three requirements defined by the IAU:
- It needs to be in orbit around the Sun.
- It needs to have enough gravity to pull itself into a spherical shape.
- It needs to have “cleared the neighborhood” of its orbit.
Any object that doesn’t meet this 3rd criteria is considered a dwarf planet. And so, Pluto is a dwarf planet.