Four years of computer processing and tweaking on a series of Hubble Space Telescope photos of Pluto have produced images showing unprecedented detail of the surface of Pluto. Principle investigator Marc Buie, of the Southwest Research Institute, said “These images represent a true-color appearance of what you would see if you were near Pluto, comparable to looking at our own Moon with the naked eye. We now know we’re looking at something that has the biggest surface changes of any object in our solar system.”
In other words, the picture to the right represents Pluto the way it really looks – no enhanced or false colours to bring out details for the scientists. Of course, at Pluto’s distance, we can’t expect to see the sorts of details we’ve become used to (mountains, ravines, craters), but we see enough to know that the surface is constantly changing – ices melting and refreezing, solid methane breaking down from Solar radiation, etc. All very exciting, and a clue of what to expect when the New Horizons probe arrives in 2015! For more details, check these articles on HubbleSite and Universe Today.