Pluto’s famous heart-shaped feature caused the dwarf planet to roll over the eons, and this reorientation probably wouldn’t have been possible without a subsurface ocean, new research suggests.
The left lobe of Pluto’s “heart” is a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) plain called Sputnik Planitia (formerly known as Sputnik Planum), which astronomers think is an enormous impact crater. This basin has been filling with nitrogen ice over the years and now contains huge amounts of the stuff. Indeed, observations by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto last year, suggest that Sputnik Planitia’s ice may be up to 6 miles (10 km) thick. Continue reading Pluto’s Wandering Heart Hints at Subsurface Ocean
Astronomers have discovered another dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy objects beyond Neptune. But this newfound world, dubbed 2015 RR245, is much more distant than Pluto, orbiting the sun once every 700 Earth years, scientists said. (Pluto completes one lap around the sun every 248 Earth years.) Continue reading New Dwarf Planet Discovered Far Beyond Pluto’s Orbit
An incredible new time-lapse video shows Earth, Mars and the location of Pluto using images from NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory Ahead (STEREO-A) spacecraft, with the Milky Way as a vivid background. The spacecraft, whose primary mission is to monitor solar activity, was on the far side of the sun when the pictures were taken earlier this month. Continue reading Spacecraft Spots Earth, Mars and Pluto’s Position in Time-Lapse Sequence
Despite being so far from the sun, tiny Pluto, which is smaller than Earth’s moon, has had an active geologic life from the start, one that continues to present day, research published on Thursday shows.
The evidence is all over Pluto’s face, which was observed close-up for the first time by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015.
With most of the high-resolution images from the flyby now back on Earth, scientists say Pluto’s mountains, glacial flows, rotated ice blocks, volcano-like mounds and other features rival the geology found on much larger, warmer planets like Mars. Continue reading Pluto Probably Has an Ocean Under its Surface
It what could soon be called “Cloudgate,” “leaked” emails appear to discuss structures in Pluto’s already hazy atmosphere as clouds, based on a March 4 article in New Scientist.
The picture above shows sections of an image attached to an email sent by Southwest Research Institute scientist John Spencer, in which he noted particularly bright areas in Pluto’s atmosphere within a New Horizons image. Continue reading Rumors Spread of Nitrogen Clouds on Pluto
Pluto continues to be full of surprises. The latest discoveries from NASA’s New Horizons team include spinning moons and the possibility of Pluto having two ice volcanoes (cryovolcanoes) on its surface. These ice volcanoes may have been active in Pluto’s recent geological past. Continue reading Pluto’s Ice Volcanoes and Spinning Moons
A tiny frozen world three billion miles away from the sun isn’t the place where you might expect to find a brilliant blue sky, but that’s exactly what NASA’s New Horizons team has discovered on far-off Pluto.
Of course, if you were to somehow stand on Pluto and look up, the sky above your head would still look black. Pluto’s atmosphere is much too thin to actually fill in with scattered light. But at sunset and sunrise — which, on Pluto, are about 3.2 Earth-days apart — you might see the horizon illuminated by a lovely blue glow. Continue reading Pluto: A World of Blue Skies and Red Ice