Fact Check

Is This Video of Pluto's Surface?

The black-and-white footage delighted Reddit users.

Published Sep 11, 2021

Updated Sep 20, 2021
 (Screenshot, Reddit)
Image Via Screenshot, Reddit
A brief, black-and-white video posted to Reddit shows a panoramic view of the surface of Pluto.

On Sept. 8, 2021, a Reddit user posted a brief video showing the surface of Pluto. The black-and-white video displayed "ice mountains, frozen plains and layers of atmospheric haze."

The video was made using an actual photograph of Pluto, a dwarf planet on our solar system's Kuiper Belt, which NASA describes as "a donut-shaped region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune." The video in the Reddit post is from NASA; the photo was taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft in 2015.

Here's how NASA described the view:

Majestic Mountains and Frozen Plains: Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 230 miles (380 kilometers) across.


“Kuiper Belt.” NASA Solar System Exploration, https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system/kuiper-belt/overview. Accessed 9 Sept. 2021.

Talbert, Tricia. “Pluto ‘Wows’ in Spectacular New Backlit Panorama.” NASA, 17 Sept. 2015, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/pluto-wows-in-spectacular-new-backlit-panorama.


Update [Sept. 20, 2021]: Updated to clarify that the video was made from a still image.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more