Water ice is surprisingly abundant on Pluto's surface, a new map of the dwarf planet reveals.
Scientists created the map using data collected by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its epic flyby of Pluto last July.
PHOTO: New Horizons Returns Photos of Hazy 'Arctic' Pluto
The new map is more sensitive than an earlier version also produced using flyby observations, and thus shows more water ice - the dwarf planet's bedrock material - cropping up across Pluto's surface than had been seen previously, NASA officials said.
"But despite its much greater sensitivity, the map still shows little or no water ice in the informally named places called Sputnik Planum (the left or western region of Pluto's 'heart') and Lowell Regio (far north on the encounter hemisphere)," NASA officials wrote in a statement Thursday (Jan. 28). "This indicates that at least in these regions, Pluto's icy bedrock is well hidden beneath a thick blanket of other ices such as methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide."
New Horizons zoomed within just 7,800 miles (12,550 kilometers) of Pluto on July 14, 2015, returning history's first up-close looks at the dwarf planet and its five moons.