More and more pictures of Pluto captured by the New Horizons probe are being released. The latest ones seem to show glaciers of nitrogen ice on the planet, and many more features.
The most recent New Horizons pictures appear to be depicting astonishing occurrences.
Very little information has been revealed until now. More details need to be gathered before drawing conclusions.
“Pluto has a very complicated story to tell; Pluto has a very interesting history, and there is a lot of work we need to do to understand this very complicated place,” said Alan Stern, the New Horizons principal investigator.
The glacial activity that has been interpreted from the photographs were noted at edges of the area known as Sputnik Planum, a great plain found at the north of the equator. Wavy patterns that resemble the flowing ice of glaciers were recorded by New Horizons’ cameras.
“Water-ice at Pluto temperatures won’t move anywhere; it’s immobile and brittle,” he told reporters. “But on Pluto, the kind of ices we think make up the planum (nitrogen ice, carbon monoxide and methane ices) – these ices are geologically soft and malleable, even at Pluto conditions, and they will flow in the same way that glaciers flow on Earth.
“So, we actually have evidence for recent geological activity.”
Also, the presence of a surface material that, according to scientists, have flown around mountains, was also noted. They even seem to be ‘ponding’ in craters. This might possibly be the result of current activity.
Alan Stern and his team have used the limited data to formulate new observations, one of which entails Pluto having a much more rarified atmosphere than was hinted at by previous models, as per new measurements. Sunlight and radiowaves passing through the air of Pluto were used to determine the pressure to be at about only 10 microbars at the surface.
Hazes were also observed in the atmosphere. They might be resulting from methane breaking down and processed by sunlight into their building blocks (hydrocarbons like ethylene) which cool and condense into ice mist. This might then be processed to give off substances that account for the reddish hues noted.