I was looking over some of the data for the terrestrial planets, and noticed that Venus, despite its cloud covering, had been mapped by the Arecibo Observatory. Also that other planets such as mars, and some of the Jovian moons were mapped by the Voyagers. So, do any maps exist for Pluto or its moons?


1 Answer 1


Yes, but they're not very good and they're amazing.

The Wikipedia article for Pluto shows a low-resolution map of the surface, generated from Hubble images:

Spinning animated gif of Pluto

And the Wikipedia article for Pluto's largest moon Charon shows a low-resolution map of the Pluto-facing side of Charon (not to scale):

Charon map

Larger image here.

Only the Pluto-facing side is shown because the map was generated from brightness variations during Pluto–Charon occultations.

Maps with similar resolution would show no details of any of the other moons, which are much smaller.

Expect much better images in a couple of years, likely including moons that haven't yet been discovered.

UPDATE : Thanks to user HDE 226868 for reminding me: it's been a couple of years, and we have those much better images now. Here's one from New Horizons via Wikipedia:

Pluto in true color

Since the question was about a map of Pluto, here you go. You can see the much lower resolution on the opposite hemisphere, which New Horizons saw only from a greater distance (it was a flyby mission).

Map of Pluto

We also have some good images of Charon:


And here's a map of Charon:

map of Charon

and some lower resolution images of the other moons, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra.

My guess that New Horizons would discover new moons turned out to be wrong.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 also Charon and Pluto are tidally locked, so mapping Charon on several orbits would always produce an image of more or less the same face, short of their angle to the Earth changing as us and them precess in two separate orbits around the Solar barycenter. Since that is a terribly slow process (247.68 years) and their orbit inclined to the Solar ecliptic, this process will take a long time and we ought to have a few probes there by then doing it a whole lot better. ;) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Oct 8, 2013 at 2:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TildalWave: If we could directly image the surface of Charon, mapping the entire surface should be feasible. Pluto and Charon revolve around each other every 6 days or so; during that time, all parts of the surface of both bodies face Earth (except perhaps for the polar regions). The Charon map I included in my answer is limited because only the Pluto-facing side of Charon faces Earth during an occultation. $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2013 at 20:55

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