Shortly after their last major announcement, when they revealed the clearest photos of Pluto ever taken, Nasa's New Horizons team have revealed more images of the distant, cold planet.
The images, taken by the New Horizons probe while it was travelling at around 11 miles a second, reveal Pluto, which is 4.6 billion miles from Earth, to be an icy world with glacier-like flowing ice on its surface.
John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, who on Thursday was part of the team that announced the discovery of Earth-like planet Kepler 452b, said: "We knew that a mission to Pluto would bring some surprises, and now -- 10 days after closest approach -- we can say that our expectation has been more than surpassed."
A few hours after making a close approach, the probe turned its camera back towards Pluto, capturing rays of sunlight streaming through its atmosphere, creating an eerie eclipse effect.
The image shows two distinct layers of haze, miles above the surface, that makes up Pluto's alien atmosphere.
After studying the fascinating images, Grunsfeld sad the team saw "flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges," and a "diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling."
The 'ice' that has been spotted on Pluto's surface is not made from water, but is a frozen mix of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices.
At a temperature of -234 degrees celsius, Pluto is more than capable of freezing most chemicals that we know as gases here on earth.
As well as this frozen mixture, scientists also spotted revealing signs of recent geologic activity - something that researchers had hoped to spot but didn't expect.
“We’ve only seen surfaces like this on active worlds like Earth and Mars,” said mission co-investigator John Spencer of the Southwest Reserach Institute.
“I'm really smiling.”
With the discovery of 'Earth 2.0' earlier this week, and now amazing new images of Pluto, it's hoped that Nasa researchers will have plenty more to smile about in future.Reuse content