Pluto is covered in ice and has an atmosphere, new pics reveal

New Horizons has sent over so much data that NASA will be analyzing and learning more about Pluto for over a year – such is the case now: these new images from New Horizons reveal flowing ice, impressive mountain ranges and a surprisingly thick atmosphere.

Artistic representation of Pluto’s ice. Image via Space Flight Insider.

In recent years, Pluto was quite a hot topic. First of all, there where the talks about not calling it a planet anymore, and then the demotion actually happened. Some people still call it a planet, but for all scientific purposes, it’s a dwarf planet; and now, recently, the New Horizons shuttle started to approach Pluto. First from a distance, shyly, then closer and closer, until it ultimately passed right in front of it, continuing its journey to the outskirts of the solar system.

Thanks to that, we’ve been learning more and more about this mysterious planetoid.

“Pluto has a very complicated story to tell,” Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons, said at the news conference. “There is a lot of work that we need to do to understand this very complicated place.”

At a press conference, he showed a haze in a real-color picture of Pluto; that haze is Pluto’s atmosphere.

Pluto’s hazy atmosphere. Image via NASA.

“This is one of our first images of Pluto’s atmosphere. [It] stunned the encounter team,” said Michael Summers, a New Horizons co-investigator based at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, at today’s news conference. “For 25 years, we’ve known that Pluto has an atmosphere. But it’s been known by numbers. This is our first picture. This is the first time we’ve really seen it. This was the image that almost brought tears to the eyes of the atmospheric scientists on our team.”

The haze extends at least 100 miles (160 km) above the surface of Pluto, five times more than models assumed; needless to say, this came as a surprise.

Pluto, in real color. Image via NASA.

In another set of images, Pluto revealed what appears to be a wide, flowing field of glaciers: the smooth, light-colored upper-left lobe of the heart-shaped region. However, unlike Earth’s glaciers, Pluto’s aren’t made from water, but from nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. This type of glaciers are much more malleable, even at extremely low temperatures. The images clearly show that Pluto’s ice is still flowing today. Scientists were thrilled.

“To see evidence of recent geological activity is simply a dream come true,” McKinnon said. “The appearance of this terrain, the utter lack of impact craters on Sputnik Planum, tells us that this is really a young unit.”

But there is one more element which adds to Pluto’s complexity: it’s almost perfectly spherical. We tend to think of Earth as a sphere, but Earth’s shape is far from being a perfect sphere. Why Pluto took this shape is still anyone’s guess, but astronomers already have a theory.

“We actually can’t detect any obliqueness or out-of-roundness in the body,” McKinnon said. Many other bodies in the solar system have distortions to their roundness, which “tells you about their history,” he said. “Pluto was probably spinning very, very fast after what we believe to be a giant impact that led to the formation of [Charon],” McKinnon added, noting that the gravitational pull of the two bodies on each other would have, over time, slowed down Pluto’s rapid rotation.

New Horizons made its Pluto flyby on July 14, and it will take 16 months before all the data is downloaded here on Earth. No doubt, more is to come.

2 thoughts on “Pluto is covered in ice and has an atmosphere, new pics reveal

  1. Pluto Mission Heavens Wheels

    Very complicated place but still not a fully recognized planet……..hmmmmm

  2. Adnan Alshawafi

    *Ten Reasons Pluto is not a planet*

    *1- **Does not has independent orbit around the Sun but it cross the
    orbit of Neptune.*

    *2- **Pluto and Charon moving around the common center of gravity
    which has location outside the bodies of Pluto and Charon. So we can’t say
    “Pluto is orbiting Charon or Charon is orbiting Pluto ” also It is not fair
    to name one of them planet ( Pluto) and the second (Charon) moon follow
    Pluto where Charon has a powerful enough to move Pluto from outside its

    *3- **Pluto is not completely spherically as revealed by NASA “**The
    new range is just west of the region within Pluto’s heart called Sputnik
    Planum (Sputnik Plain). The peaks lie some 68 miles (110 kilometers)
    northwest of Norgay Montes” In addition to a large terrain on the surface
    of Pluto, with respect to its size is a very large, although NASA hide a
    lot of** details about Pluto surface without gave us one full picture just
    which edited by painter ,that improve the condition of the International
    Astronomical Union to re-Pluto a planet , also the same thing about Charon

    *4- **as well as Pluto does not have the strong gravity that enables
    it to be completely spherical because has two different faces ( the surface
    of Pluto’s face that appears to Charon it has a different **terrain in
    comparison with surface of other face)**, So we can say Charon’s gravity
    affect the attractiveness of the surface details of the Pluto.*

    *5- **Pluto does not have enough gravity to clear its orbit there are
    a lot of orbs in the Kuiper belt intervention in the planet’s orbit Pluto*

    *6- **Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson: ” We heard during Friday’s
    briefing that Pluto is almost perfectly spherical, which was unexpected
    considering what we think happened during its formation”???**, *

    * Researcher Adnan Alshawafi: “NASA was discovered water ice is flowing in
    Pluto’s surface , after our criticisms they changed it to nitrogen ice we
    say to them is an intensive gas is fog and liquid could not be ice for two reasons: first how possible it becomes nitrogen ice in the low atmospheric
    pressure on Pluto and the second reason you say the planet has a thick
    cover atmospheric Increase the expected temperature more than 210 degrees
    below zero so the nitrogen cannot be ice”????,* *That covers impact craters
    from meteor strikes.*

    *7- **Pluto rotation around itself the day is equal to a month on
    Pluto ,So we can say Charon control the Pluto rotation and Charon remains
    free to turn around the itself**.*

    *8- **Pluto’s orbit has a great anomaly in the orbit in orbital
    inclination around the sun and the big distance between the aphelion and

    *9- **Other satellites orbiting around Pluto and Charon does not
    around Pluto only or Charon only because the common center of gravity
    control orbits of these satellites**.*

    *10- **Pluto and Charon the enters the dance which NASA called it
    compound orbital dance without explain why those dance and her first
    interpretations that Pluto’s mass is not concentrated in the center of the
    planet. In other words, if we break it into halves, we will see that one
    half has larger mass than the other half by over 20%**, and the second
    interpretation, according to the hypothesis of compound balance balls for
    the researcher Adnan Alshawafi that orbital dance because Pluto and Charon
    not completely spherical there are large terrain is the surface **which
    working on different area between Pluto and Charon opposite faces (Pluto’s
    surface perspective from Charon and Charon’s surface perspective from

    *The truth that must defend it and circulated among the members of IAU is*

    *Pluto and Charon is a binary planet*

    *Researcher : Adnan Alshawafi*

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