NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal four mysterious dark spots that appear to be evenly spaced along Pluto’s equator. Each of the spots is about 300 miles in diameter and has a surface area similar in size to the state of Mississippi, NASA scientists report.
“It’s a real puzzle — we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo., in a statement.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which launched in 2006, will soon give scientists their first close-up look at the dwarf planet Pluto.
The images show just how much lighter the mottled tan surface of Pluto is compared to the moody gray of its largest moon, Charon. The discrepancy in their color is yet another mystery that researchers hope to resolve soon.
It has taken the New Horizons spacecraft more than nine years to traverse 3 billion miles of space between the Earth and Pluto. But it is finally homing in on its ultimate destination.
On July 14 the spacecraft will make its closest approach to the dwarf planet, flying within 7,700 miles of the surface and NASA hopes to have clear images.