Big discoveries all around for NASA over the past couple of weeks. After the recent discovery of flowing water on Mars, NASA has also discovered water ice in the mountains of Pluto. The discovery comes from a series of photos taken by the satellite New Horizons.
The new photos actually show a lot of really cool things. For one, it seems that Pluto has blue skies very similar to Earth’s. Unlike Earth though, whose blue atmosphere is created by light reflected from nitrogen particles, Pluto gets its blue haze from soot-like particles called tholins.
Obviously, though, the big news comes in the discovery of water ice on Pluto. Scientists previously thought (or hoped, rather) that Pluto would have ice plumes, which would suggest an underground ocean beneath Pluto’s surface. Obviously, that’s not what they found. The water ice is found in the southern hemisphere of the dwarf planet next to a giant heart-shaped area.
Curiously enough, the ice areas appear as red on the surface. Scientists believe that this is related to the tholins in the atmosphere. Though they don’t understand the full relationship. In fact, there is a great deal that NASA doesn’t understand about the ice on Pluto.
According to science team member Jason Cook:
“Large expanses of Pluto don’t show exposed water ice because it’s apparently masked by other, more volatile ices across most of the planet. Understanding why water appears exactly where it does, and not in other places, is a challenge that we are digging into.”
New Horizons is now moving past Pluto into the great unknown. Perhaps it will discover new incredible things to add to NASA’s recent discoveries.
To learn more about NASA’s discoveries on Pluto, check out their official statement here. Also checkout this video on some interesting facts on Pluto, below