Pluto’s snow-clad mountains look as if they are on Earth, but they are completely different

These mountains completely accumulate ice like anywhere else in the solar system.

The NASA New Horizons probe flew Pluto in 2015, providing the closest and most detailed view of our dwarf planet ever. Investigations have revealed characteristics that resemble those stunning snow-capped ranges of mountains on Earth.

This is yet another discovery made using New Horizons data that changes the way scientists understand Pluto.

The dwarf planet exists on the edge of our solar system in a place called the Kuiper Belt, where the icy, old remnants of the solar system orbit the sun at such great distances that they remain like frozen time capsules.

Pluto is 3.6 billion miles from the Sun – 40 times the distance of the Sun from Earth – and takes 248 Earth years in a year. This makes Pluto a cold place covered with snow, and its surface is between 378 to negative 396 degrees Fahrenheit.

Its thin atmosphere includes nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide, and although the sky is blue on Pluto, the ice is red due to its chemical composition.

5 years after Pluto flyby, New Horizons spacecraft overtakes

But in the equatorial region of Pluto, also known as the Cuthulu region, bright white frosts gather in a spectacular way above the characteristics of red.

“, Pluto is covered by alien-structured ices and its landscape resembles a polar cap on Earth (Greenland and Antarctica),” said Tungi Bertrand, lead study author and a post-doctoral researcher at the NASA Ames Research Center in California Said in an email. Se cnn

He added, “New Horizons discovered magnificent mountains on Pluto, resembling the snow-capped mountain ranges seen on Earth.” “Such a scenario was never seen anywhere else in the solar system. Can the atmosphere of Pluto behave like the Earth? We found that a new and unique (in the solar system) atmospheric process forms these icy mountains on Pluto. “

The study published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
Cthulhu is an area that spans about half of Pluto's equator, starting west of the great nitrogen ice field known as the Sputnik Plunum.  It is slightly larger than Alaska and features snow-covered red mountains that are covered in truly bright methane frost.

Pluto is covered in methane deposits, but the pits seen in the Cthulhu region look like snow gathered on rims, walls, and mountain tops. But scientists were not sure about the composition of these deposits – either rich in methane or a combination of methane and nitrogen – as well as how it is formed.

According to the new discovery Pluto may become hot and may include oceans

The data collected during the New Horizons mission allowed Bertrand and his colleagues to create high-resolution climate simulations to better understand the methane cycle of the dwarf planet. They found that the frost reserves were rich in methane. But they do not become like frost or snow bags on earth.

On Earth, atmospheric temperature decreases with altitude. Bertrand said the same happens with surface temperature as elevation increases because the cold, dense atmosphere cools the surface. When moist air approaches a mountain, it rises above the slope, cold and watery and forms snow-capped peaks.

On Pluto, it is the opposite.

While Pluto’s surface temperature remains incredibly cold, its climate is actually warmed by the sun. As the height increases, they start increasing the temperature.

When Pluto's heart beats, it makes air

“The air in contact with it is cooled and flows downstream,” Bertrand explained. “Pluto’s atmosphere has more gaseous methane at its warmer, higher altitudes, which allows the gas to saturate and reach the mountain directly on peaks that are high enough to reach the rich region. At low altitudes, The concentration of gaseous methane is low, and it cannot be reduced. Condensed. ”

Researchers believe the same process may be responsible for other methane-rich deposits in Pluto.

This helps explain the presence of narrow zones, or steep, narrow ridges on Pluto, like the Tartars Dorsa region, where methane deposits reign supreme.

This image of the New Horizons shows the misty area of ​​Tartarus Dorsa.

These surface features are some of the widest on Pluto, built largely with methane and little water.

What does Pluto's ocean keep from freezing?

“This discovery teaches us that space still has a lot of physical and dynamic processes that we are not aware of, and that the climate can be very different than that of Earth (despite creating a similar scenario),” Bertrand he said.

“Studying Pluto and other planetary bodies is important because they are natural laboratories to explore and investigate the diversity of potential climates (and geology, and other planetary sciences) that give us more perspectives on our own climate. ”

Understanding Pluto also helps researchers to understand what is common and unique to planetary climate, and it helps to keep Pluto’s climate at the scale of other climates known in our solar system, he said.


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