NASA Studying Ice Skyscrapers to Find out What Pluto Looks Like

In order to find out what Pluto’s environment looks like, scientists are studying the mysterious skyscrapers of ice that shoot up from Pluto’s surface.

The group of scientists from NASA is studying the data from the space agency’s New Horizons spacecraft. The data sent by the spacecraft suggests that the features near the planet’s equator looks like giant knife blades as methane ice eroded and left dramatic crests and sharp divides.

Talking about the planet, scientist Jeffrey Moore said in the official statement, “When we realized that bladed terrain consists of tall deposits of methane ice, we asked ourselves why it forms all of these ridges, as opposed to just being big blobs of ice on the ground. It turns out that Pluto undergoes climate variation and sometimes, when Pluto is a little warmer, the methane ice begins to basically ‘evaporate’ away.”

Interestingly, the ice blades on Pluto are similar to those found in Earth’s own equator. These ice blades are formed when ice transforms directly into gas through sublimation. However, in Earth, they can be found in high altitude. Moreover, the penitentes of Earth are just few feet tall while Pluto’s are hundreds of feet high due to the planet’s conditions. While scientists previously thought that the planet’s climate doesn’t change that much, new data suggested that it might not be the case and the dwarf planet’s climate changes over a period of millions of years.

Talking about the latest findings, the space agency said, “As a result of this discovery, we now know that the surface and air of Pluto are apparently far more dynamic than previously thought.”

“This provides an opportunity to map out altitudes of some parts of Pluto’s surface not captured in high resolution, where bladed terrains also appear to exist. Though the detailed coverage of Pluto’s bladed terrain covers only a small area, NASA researchers and their collaborators have been able to conclude from several types of data that these sharp ridges may be a widespread feature on Pluto’s so-called ‘far side,’ helping to develop a working understanding of Pluto’s global geography, its present and its past.”

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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