Today’s blog is from Veronica Bray, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson. She specializes in comparing the surfaces of planetary bodies across the solar system, especially through the study of impact craters.
A spacecraft flies to Pluto, amazing images of this alien disk are sent back to Earth for us to enjoy, and suddenly scientists are telling us about what Pluto is made of—that it has different layers in its crust, that one part of the Pluto crust is weaker or stronger, or older or younger than another. How can that information be gained from photos?
Well, in part the answer is that many other kinds of data—like compositional and atmospheric spectra – were also obtained, but this blog post gives one example of how the New Horizons team is using the spectacular images to investigate the surface of Pluto. As my specialty is impact cratering, you know what I’ll be talking about.
When a comet or other object collides with Pluto, the speed of the impact is typically faster than a bullet. As a result, such collisions create an explosion that excavates a large hole in the surface—an impact crater. Depending on the ...