Hello! It’s Kelsi Singer again from the New Horizons science team to talk about one of my favorite planetary geologic features –impact craters. They may just look like holes in the ground, but amazingly, craters can give us all sorts of useful clues to a planet’s history.
This portrait of Pluto is in enhanced color, to illustrate differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
There are many ways scientists investigate a planet they’re seeing for the first time, and this is one example. With a flyby mission you can’t probe the ice on the surface or analyze samples, so you have other methods to determine a planet’s makeup and age – and gain insight into how it involved into the world it is today. Analyzing craters can help us understand the age of a planet’s surface.
A surface with more craters indicates that it’s older, geologically, than a less-cratered surface. Pluto displays many good examples of this concept. Any guesses as to which parts of Pluto mission scientists think are younger?
If you went with the informally named Sputnik Planum – the left half of Pluto’s “heart” feature – as a young geologic unit, then you ...