CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS
‘X’ Marks a Curious Corner on Pluto’s Icy Plains

‘X’ Marks a Curious Corner on Pluto’s Icy Plains

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Transmitted to Earth on Dec. 24, 2015, this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) extends New Horizons’ highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the center of Sputnik Planum, the informally named plain that forms the left side of Pluto’s “heart.”

Mission scientists believe the pattern of the cells stems from the slow thermal convection of the nitrogen-dominated ices. The darker patch at the center of the image is likely a dirty block of water ice “floating” in denser solid nitrogen, and which has been dragged to the edge of a convection cell.

Also visible are thousands of pits in the surface, which scientists believe may form by sublimation. Image is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) wide.