Just 10 days after confirming that liquid water has been found on Mars, the US space agency revealed the amazing dwarf-planet has both ice and a ‘gorgeous’ blue sky.
A Nasa spokesman said: “New Horizons has detected numerous small, exposed regions of water ice on Pluto.
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“The discovery was made from data collected by the Ralph spectral composition mapper on New Horizons.”
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There has been repeated speculation Pluto may have a liquid sea under its surface, and confirmation of water ice on the surface adds to this theory.
The blue in the picture allows scientists to judge how exactly it is made.
“That striking blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles,” said science team researcher Carly Howett, also of SwRI. “A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles. On Earth, those particles are very tiny nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be larger — but still relatively small — soot-like particles we call tholins.”
Nasa also said that it had found small, exposed regions of ice on the dwarf planet. Those bits of ice correlate with previously seen red patches on the surface — and scientists aren’t sure why.
The water only appears in patches. Scientists are planning to explore why exactly those patches form, and why they appear where they do.
“Large expanses of Pluto don’t show exposed water ice,” said science team member Jason Cook, of SwRI, “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.”