NASA releases new Pluto flyover animation

From there, the flyby footage passes over Sputnik's western border with Cthulhu Macula, which is a dark, craters region located within the nearby highlands.

On the two-year anniversary of the New Horizons probe's flyby of Pluto, mission scientists unveiled two detailed global maps of the dwarf planet and its largest moon, Charon.

Members of the New Horizons mission team put together the animation using data collected by the spacecraft, as well as elevation models of Pluto's surface.

It's been two years since NASA's research spacecraft, New Horizons, zoomed past Pluto on its never-ending voyage into space. It shows rocky mountain ranges and plains of ice on the planet's surface.

Some of the features shown on the map are the icy plains of Pluto's Sputnik Planitia and the ridges of Tartarus Dorsa.

This would explain why the Tombaugh Regio aligns nearly exactly opposite from the dwarf planet's moon, Charon.

The team behind the mission was "blown away by the incredible diversity of terrain on Pluto and just generally, the collection of phenomena we've observed throughout the Pluto system", project scientist Hal Weaver told CBS News previous year. All the names of Pluto and Charon are informal and pull from science fiction and fantasy sources like "Star Trek" and "Lord of the Rings". But after years of debate, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to the rank of a dwarf planet in 2006, reducing the total number of planets in the solar system to eight.

Pluto flyover. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Paul Schenk and John Blackwell, Lunar and Planetary Institute The topographic relief is exaggerated by a factor of two to three times in these movies to emphasize topography; the surface colors of Pluto and Charon also have been enhanced to bring out detail. North is up; Pluto's equator roughly bisects the band of dark red terrains running across the lower third of the map.

"Everywhere we turn are new mysteries", Stern said.

The New Horizons spacecraft made its flight around Pluto on July 14, 2015. The spacecraft's mission is set to continue with a look at a Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 about 18 months from now.

  • Joey Payne