Pluto: NASA New Horizon probe’s findings about snow-capped mountains on the planet!

Pluto is one of the planets in our solar system. And, NASA has been studying it. The NASA New Horizon probe had flown past Pluto in 2015. This gave us a close and detailed view of the dwarf planet. Recently, a study on it has been published in Nature Communications.

NASA New Horizon probe and its findings of Pluto

NASA scientists have been studying the planet of our solar system, Pluto. They found mountains on it that are snow-capped. But the close-up view provided by the NASA New Horizon probe revealed that the ‘snow’ on the mountain tops on Pluto is not similar to the one on Earth. It is actually methane frost that gives an appearance of snow.

Pluto planet [Source: NPR]
Hence, this view and conclusion change the way scientists look at the planet and understand it.  The planet is at the edge of our solar system at the Kuiper Belt. This place has the old and icy remnants of our system. Pluto lies at 3.6 billion miles away from the Sun. This is 40 times the distance of the sun from the Earth. On Pluto, a single year is equal to 248 Earth years-more than the lifetime of a human being. Additionally, the temperature on Pluto is estimated to be between -378 to -396 degrees Fahrenheit-unsuitable for human existence.

Pluto’s atmosphere

Moreover, the atmosphere surrounding Pluto is thin. Furthermore, nitrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide are found here. So there is no oxygen there. Besides, the sky appears blue but the snow is red in color there.

But Pluto has an Equatorial region similar to that on the Earth. And scientists call this region Cthulhu region. Here there are bright white frosts on top of the red. Tanguy Bertrand, a post-doctoral researcher at NASA Ames Research Center in California is the lead study author of the article. And Tanguy said:

“Pluto is covered by exotic-composition ices and its landscape strongly resembles the polar caps on Earth (Greenland and Antarctica),”

“New Horizons even discovered spectacular mountains on Pluto covered by bright deposits, strikingly resembling snow-capped mountain chains seen on Earth. Such a landscape had never been observed elsewhere in the solar system. Could Pluto’s atmosphere behave like Earth’s? We discovered that a new and unique (in the solar system) atmospheric process forms these snowy mountains on Pluto.”

Pluto’s mountains compared with the Alps [Source: CNN]

More about  the snow on that planet

Methane deposits cover the surface of the distant planet. But those in the Cthulhu region resemble the snow on Earth appearance-wise. These gather on crater rims, walls, and on mountain tops. Scientists are unsure of its chemical nature. But they could be either only methane or a mixture of methane and nitrogen. And how does the planet form them? No answers still.

On the Earth, when the moist wind hits the mountain slopes, it rises and cools. The water then condenses to form snow. But on Pluto, things are just the opposite. Pluto’s surface is extremely cold and as the altitude increases, the temperature also increases.

Pluto’s surface and mountains [Source: Daily Express]
And, Tanguy explains:

“At its contact, the air is cooled and flows downslope. Pluto’s atmosphere has more gaseous methane at its warmer, higher altitudes, allowing for that gas to saturate and freeze directly on the mountain peaks tall enough to reach the enriched zone. At lower altitudes, the concentration of gaseous methane is lower, and it cannot condense.”

Wonderfully different!

Also, read Prince Charles lectures on the environment in Ghana and raises concerns about the life of grandkids on this planet!