New Horizons Snaps Pluto Moon Nix Showing A Mystery Red Spot

Posted: Jul 22 2015, 8:05am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 22 2015, 8:18am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


New Horizons Snaps Pluto Moon Nix showing a Mystery Red Spot

NASA's New Horizons sent new photos including shots of Pluto's small moons Nix and Hydra.

Why is Pluto moon Nix red? New Horizons sent new photos obtained on the morning of July 14, 2015, and received on the ground on July 18.

At the time the photos were taken New Horizons was about 102,000 miles (165,000 km) from Nix. The image shows features as small as approximately 2 miles (3 kilometers) across on Nix, which is estimated to be 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and 22 miles (36 kilometers) wide. 

NASA scientists look now into the red color of a small region on Nix.

Although the overall surface color of Nix is neutral grey in the image, the newfound region has a distinct red tint.  

Hints of a bull’s-eye pattern lead scientists to speculate that the reddish region is a crater.

“Additional compositional data has already been taken of Nix, but is not yet downlinked. It will tell us why this region is redder than its surroundings,” said mission scientist Carly Howett, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. She added, “This observation is so tantalizing, I’m finding it hard to be patient for more Nix data to be downlinked.”  

The other moon in the photo is Hydra (right).  Irregularly shaped moon Hydra is shown in black and white image taken from New Horizons’ LORRI instrument on July 14, 2015, from a distance of about 143,000 miles (231,000 kilometers). Features as small as 0.7 miles (1.2 kilometers) are visible on Hydra, which measures 34 miles (55 kilometers) in length. 

There appear to be at least two large craters, one of which is mostly in shadow. The upper portion looks darker than the rest of Hydra, suggesting a possible difference in surface composition. From this image, mission scientists have estimated that Hydra is 34 miles (55 kilometers) long and 25 miles (40 kilometers) wide.

Mission science collaborator Ted Stryk of Roane State Community College in Tennessee says “Before last week, Hydra was just a faint point of light, so it's a surreal experience to see it become an actual place, as we see its shape and spot recognizable features on its surface for the first time.”

Nix and Hydra were both discovered in 2005 using Hubble Space Telescope data by a research team led by New Horizons project scientist Hal Weaver, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland. 

Via the New Horizons page on the NASA site.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Luigi Lugmayr () is the founding chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 15 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology magazine.
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