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Psychedelic Pluto pic is a groovy space trip

New Horizons scientists made this false color image of Pluto using a technique called principal component analysis to highlight the many subtle color differences between Pluto's distinct regions.

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

This false color picture shows Pluto's true colors.

Allow us to explain. NASA scientists used a technique called principle component analysis to highlight the subtle color differences between the dwarf planet's distinct regions.

The data used to create this image were collected by New Horizon's Ralph instrument and Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, just as the spacecraft made its historic flyby of the distant body. Ralph is the craft's primary tool for investigating the surface composition on Pluto and its moons. MVIC has filters that are sensitive to coloration caused by materials like tholins, which are broken down as they fall from the high atmosphere, dusting the surface in reddish hues.

The false color image puts into stark relief the difficult to see, but distinct color boundaries of the two halves of Tombaugh Regio, affectionately known as Pluto's heart, seen here:

The image was presented this week at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting of the American Astronomical Society in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com