Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2023 August 18
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Northern Pluto
Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Institute

Explanation: Gaze across the frozen canyons of northern Pluto in this contrast enhanced color scene. The image data used to construct it was acquired in July 2015 by the New Horizons spacecraft as it made the first reconnaissance flight through the remote Pluto system six billion kilometers from the Sun. Now known as Lowell Regio, the region was named for Percival Lowell, founder of the Lowell Observatory. Also famous for his speculation that there were canals on Mars, Lowell started the search that ultimately led to Pluto's discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. In this frame Pluto's North Pole is above and left of center. The pale bluish floor of the broad canyon on the left is about 70 kilometers (45 miles) wide, running vertically toward the south. Higher elevations take on a yellowish hue. New Horizon's measurements were used to determine that in addition to nitrogen ice, methane ice is abundant across Lowell Regio. So far, Pluto is the only Solar System world named by an 11-year-old girl.

Tomorrow's picture: ringed ice giant

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