New Horizons finds another icy mountain range on Pluto

icy mountain range on PlutoAstronomers have discovered a second, impressive mountain range on Pluto’s icy surface.

New Horizons spotted the new, apparently less lofty series of mountains on the lower-left edge of Pluto’s best known feature, the bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Regio.

These newly-discovered frozen peaks are believed to be one-half mile to one mile (1 to 1.5km) high, about the same height as the US’ Appalachian Mountains.

The Norgay Montes (Norgay Mountains) discovered by New Horizons on July 15 more closely approximate the height of the taller Rocky Mountains.

The new range is just west of the region within Pluto’s heart called Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain). The peaks lie some 68 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Norgay Montes.

This newest image shows the remarkably well-defined topography along the western edge of Tombaugh Regio.

‘There is a pronounced difference in texture between the younger, frozen plains to the east and the dark, heavily-cratered terrain to the west,’ said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI).

‘There’s a complex interaction going on between the bright and the dark materials that we’re still trying to understand.’

While Sputnik Planum is believed to be relatively young in geological terms – perhaps less than 100 million years old – the darker region probably dates back billions of years.

Moore claims that the bright, sediment-like material appears to be filling in old craters.

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