Friday, July 17, 2015

The Plains of Pluto Plus a First Glimpse at the Atmosphere Provides Opportunity to Hypothesize

New pictures of the Pluto system are so exciting for space enthusiasts. Because the New Horizons spacecraft is moving so fast, and Pluto is so far away, we have to wait for the spacecraft to phone home. Each picture that arrives on Earth is analyzed and interpreted by scientists from all over the world.
This is the World we are coming to think of when we consider the Pluto-Charon system.

By taking a closer look at the "heart of Pluto" we get our first up-close look at the frozen plains of Pluto.
This region is just north of the mountains looked at a few days ago. In this picture we see irregular shaped flat lands that resemble frozen mud cracks on Earth. The cracks, or shallow troughs. Some of the troughs have dark material in them. What could have made these shapes which are roughly twelve miles across? Why do some of the troughs have dark material? On the right side of the picture along the shaped lines or troughs are hills. Below and left of the hills seems to be a pitted area that may have been formed by a process called sublimination, in which ice turns directly to gas, as dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) does on Earth. Does sublimination happen on Pluto with its different types of ices?

By taking a closer look at the plains area, which scientists are informally calling Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain) The Ralph intrument has detected frozen carbon monoxide. This picture shows the concentration, although it has not been determined if it is just a surface layer or comes from within Pluto.


This picture is just a teaser, but it is our first look at the tiny moon. Nix is elongagted and 25 miles in diameter; and this is a view of one end of the miniscule moon. This picture was taken on July 13 from 360,000 miles. Better pictures are yet to come.

What is Pluto's Atmosphere Like?

Instrument Alice gives us our first look. To the non-trained eye, this video shows an even atmosphere around the planet. Once again, we will find out more later. With Pluto, it is important to practice patience!

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