A Red Spot On Nix And Hydra's Rubber Ducky Shape Come Into Focus In Newest Images Of Pluto's Moons

Pluto’s moon Nix (left), shown here in enhanced color as imaged by the New Horizons Ralph instrument, has a reddish spot that has attracted the interest of mission scientists. The data were obtained on the morning of July 14, 2015 and received on the ground on July 18. At the time the observations were taken New Horizons was about 102,000 miles (165,000 km) from Nix. The image shows features as small as approximately 2 miles (3 kilometers) across on Nix, which is estimated to be 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and 22 miles (36 kilometers) wide. Pluto’s small, irregularly shaped moon Hydra (right) is revealed in this black and white image taken from New Horizons’ LORRI instrument on July 14, 2015 from a distance of about 143,000 miles (231,000 kilometers). Features as small as 0.7 miles (1.2 kilometers) are visible on Hydra, which measures 34 miles (55 kilometers) in length. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Pluto's smaller moons Nix and Hydra are coming into focus and they have interesting stories to tell. Jelly-bean shaped Nix has an intriguing region on its surface that has a distinct red tint that scientist suspect might be the location of a crater. "Additional compositional data has already been taken of Nix, but is not yet downlinked. It will tell us why this region is redder than its surroundings," said mission scientist Carly Howett, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. She added, "This observation is so tantalizing, I’m finding it hard to be patient for more Nix data to be downlinked."

Hydra on the other hand is irregularly shaped - rubber ducky like - with at least two large craters visible, one which is mostly in shadow. From this image, Hydra is estimated to be 55 kilometers (34 miles) long and 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide. "Before last week, Hydra was just a faint point of light, so it's a surreal experience to see it become an actual place, as we see its shape and spot recognizable features on its surface for the first time", said mission science collaborator Ted Stryk of Roane State Community College in Tennessee.

For the original press release, click here.

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