What Colour Is Pluto?


Wel, as you can see, it’s a little beige in places but it’s taken a long time to find that out.

In 2015, multispectral images were sent back to Earth by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it shot by Pluto at 80,000km/h. But processing these (in order to approximate what the human eye might see) took time. To wit:

The result featured here, released three years after the raw data was acquired by New Horizons, is the highest resolution true colour image of Pluto ever taken. Visible in the image is the light-coloured, heart-shaped, Tombaugh Regio, with the unexpectedly smooth Sputnik Planitia, made of frozen nitrogen, filling its western lobe. New Horizons found the dwarf-planet to have a surprisingly complex surface composed of many regions having perceptibly different hues. In total, though, Pluto is mostly brown, with much of its muted colour originating from small amounts of surface methane energised by ultraviolet light from the Sun.

Full sized image here.

(Image: NASAJHU APLSwRIAlex Parker)


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6 thoughts on “What Colour Is Pluto?

  1. Slightly Bemused

    I remember on the day that New Horizons made it’s closest approach, NASA was running an awareness thingy called Pluto Time. If you went out at that time, the light would be approximately the same as the brightest day on Pluto.

    I decided to try it out for today, and for my town in Kildare (and the same for Dublin) is at 7:59 pm today. For Galway, this is 8:10 pm. It is brighter than I expected, to be honest, as I noted at the first instance.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      I love this kind of time and planetary awareness. Puts annoyances like G’OD, cycle lanes and Aislings in the box of small insignificant stuff.

      1. Slightly Bemused

        Glad you enjoyed it :-)

        I once worked it out for all the other planets from Mars outwards, but I cannot find the worksheet right now.We cannot really emulate Mercury, but I remember that the Russians, after they landed their probe, described the surface of Venus as ‘Like Moscow in a Thunderstorm’. Having been in Moscow during a thunderstorm, that is really dark for so close to the sun, a testament to the heavy cloud cover.

  2. eoin

    If I haven’t said it before, the billions that are given to NASA is money really well-spent and it is hugely important to us all what shade of beige Pluto is.

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