NASA has today revealed even more discoveries from New Horizons, revealing that Pluto has a haze and flowing ice on Pluto.
The photo above shows off that haze in wonderful quality, showing the dwarf planet shrouded in darkness and surrounded by a haze, similar to a new eclipse, however revealing more than your average eclipse and allowing NASA to discover more about the planet by looking closer at these layers of haze.
“We knew that a mission to Pluto would bring some surprises, and now — 10 days after closest approach — we can say that our expectation has been more than surpassed,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. “With flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges, and vast haze, Pluto is showing a diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling.”
There’s still more analytics to perform on the haze, however analysts from NASA have discovered that the layers of atmospheric haze are located 30 and 50 miles above Pluto’s surface, which derails NASA’s previous belief that the temperatures would be too warm for a haze to form that high above Pluto’s surface, NASA believes that this haze is created when Methane gas is broken down by ultraviolet sunlight, which creates a buildup of more hydrocarbon gases, which are then believed to fall to the lower parts of the atmosphere where they then cool and condense as ice particles.
And that wasn’t all that NASA wanted to talk about today, they also revealed another discovery within Tombaugh Regio, revealing that there is evidence that there are or used to be flowing ices across Sputnik Planum, similar to that of the glaciers on Earth.
New Horizons’ Ralph instrument also found data that indicates that the center of Sputnik Planum is rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices.
“At Pluto’s temperatures of minus-390 degrees Fahrenheit, these ices can flow like a glacier,” said Bill McKinnon, of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team.
Watch the video below for a look at a fly over of the wo regions on Pluto, northwestern Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain) and Hillary Montes (Hillary Mountains), which was created with the close-approach images from New Horizons.
As of yet only 5 per cent of the data from New Horizons has been transmitted to Earth, and NASA expects that we won’t know about all of the discoveries from New Horizons for about another 16 months, during which time NASA will continue to update with news from Pluto bit by bit.