Feb 05, 2016 01:50 PM EST
Pluto's 'Floating Hills' the Latest Example of Pluto's Geological Diversity
One of the most interesting finds from New Horizons' flyby of Pluto was the recent discovery of hills on the dwarf planet's surface that appear to float.
According to ABC News, the new images are the latest example of just how much data New Horizons gathered during its historic flyby. Downlinking data at an approximate rate of up to four kilobits per second, the spacecraft should be done by next summer.
The new close-ups of Pluto are from the famous heart-shaped region and shows ranges of hills of water ice stretching miles across that appear to be floating.
The hills are just the latest example of Pluto's surprising geological diversity, which could well have gone unknown if not for New Horizons.
"Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth's Arctic Ocean," NASA said in a statement. "The hills are likely fragments of the rugged uplands that have broken away and are being carried by the nitrogen glaciers into Sputnik Planum. 'Chains' of the drifting hills are formed along the flow paths of the glaciers. When the hills enter the cellular terrain of central Sputnik Planum, they become subject to the convective motions of the nitrogen ice, and are pushed to the edges of the cells, where the hills cluster in groups reaching up to 12 miles (20 kilometers) across."
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