Icy nitrogen flows add to Pluto excitement

It photographed the sunlight slicing through the tiny planet’s atmosphere, illuminating a haze that sat as high as 130 km above the surface.


There are two distinct layers of haze – one about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the surface and the other at an altitude of about 30 miles (50 kilometers). The image, delivered to Earth on July 23, is displayed with north at the top of the frame.

Some of the images taken by New Horizons also show evidence of flowing methane ice and hydrocarbons on Pluto’s surface. Scientists at NASA were surprised to discover flowing ice and an extended haze on the dwarf planet based on data sent by New Horizons.

The world will eagerly await for more data from New Horizons, wondering what else the mysterious planet has to reveal. “There are some pretty mind-blowing discoveries”.

About seven hours after its closest flyby of Pluto, New Horizons turned LORRI back at Pluto, taking images of sunlight streaming through the dwarf planet’s atmosphere. But aside from the exceptional quality images, scientists are learning more and more about Pluto’s secrets. In fact, it’s the hazes that help give Pluto’s surface its reddish hue.

According to Popular Mechanics, when New Horizons took it’s farewell pictures, Pluto’s backlit images looked definitely astonishing.

With temperature on Pluto’s surface at a freezing minus 380 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 229 degrees Celsius), why would ice water move? It seems that Pluto’s “heart” is made up of methane, carbon monoxide and frozen nitrogen fuelling ever-shifting glaciers. One of those semi-filled craters is about the size of metropolitan Washington D.C., McKinnon said. It could have been deposited when an icy body smashed into Pluto, or it could be upwelling from deep within the planet.

According to NASA, Swirl-shaped patterns of light and dark found in the northern region of Sputnik Planum indicate that a surface layer of exotic ices has flowed around obstacles and into depressions.

They stated that the mountains could be as high as that of the Appalachian Mountains on Earth, which reach a maximum height of about 6,000 feet. Ten days after the bordering approach of the New Horizons, scientists can now claim that their expedition has surpassed their expectations.

Researchers working on NASA’s New Horizons mission stated in a news conference on Friday that in just two years, Pluto’s atmosphere have fallen by half. Yes, they’re still blurry, but more data is coming.

“Starting in September, that’s when the spigot opens again”, said mission leader Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute.


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Dark Pluto Bares Its Heart | WXPR