The new New Horizons images are out and they reveal Pluto has blue skies and red water ice! The blue is caused by a mysterious mix of particles scattering blue light when sun light reaches them, and the layers of haze extend to 100 miles above Pluto’s surface. And on the surface? Red-coloured water ice. This might not be exciting to some, but it raises very big questions in the search for Earth-like planets. Pluto was expected to be as barren as our own moon, but everything New Horizons has beamed back to Earth has blown the minds of the NASA scientists studying the data. Dr Stern and his colleagues have every right to hype this up, 2015 is absolutely a year for the science text books. And the quality of the images… this was the stuff of dreams when I was a kid. Just look at that!
This world is alive. It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology. Every week I am floored. Nasa won’t let me tell you what we’re going to tell you on Thursday. It’s amazing.
This is what Dr Alan Stern, one of NASA’s lead researchers, told a packed lecture hall at the University of Alberta in Canada on Monday. Pluto, once a planet and then demoted to an insignificant dwarf rock at the edge of our Solar System, is proving to be as interesting as Mars. Only 10 percent of the data captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has been downloaded, so what has NASA seen that has Dr Stern giddy as a schoolboy?
We’ll find out today, when NASA releases new images and data from the New Horizons spacecraft. Or will the news be about Pluto’s moon, Charon? After the huge announcement of flowing salt water on Mars, what could have NASA even more excited about a little planet & its moon at the edge of our solar system? Will Matt Damon gear up for The Plutonian?
Beautiful image of Pluto & Charon below from NASA’s New Horizons page.
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