Pluto’s Giant Blades of Ice Are Made of Methane

When NASA’s new Horizons sent us pictures of Pluto, scientists were puzzled by its ‘giant blades of ice’ which were much bigger than those found here in Earth. While scientists previously speculated that the giant ice blades were made of ice, a new report published by the space agency stated that the blades or penitenants are made of methane rather than ice. The report also concluded that these blades most likely have formed as a result of erosion that left dramatic crests and sharp divides.

The findings came from a team from the space agency’s Ames Research Center in California. The group of scientists determined that the structures are formed when methane in the planet’s upper atmosphere freezes. Lead researcher, Jeffrey Moore said, “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. turns out that Pluto undergoes climate variation and sometimes, when Pluto is a little warmer, the methane ice begins to basically ‘evaporate’ away.”

While scientists didn’t anticipate the blades to be made of ice, similar structures are also found here in earth. However, those found in Earth is pretty small compared to those of Pluto’s as Earth’s penitents are just few meters tall.

In addition to this, the latest findings have also revealed another interesting fact about the planet. The data revealed that climate of the dwarf planet has gone through drastic changes over millions of years. According to the latest report, the dwarf planet contained large amount of methane gas which froze and ultimately burned off as the planet’s atmosphere became warmer. According to the space agency, the latest findings confirms that the planet has a more dynamic atmosphere than previously thought.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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