Nasa's New Horizons mission finds hint of cloud on Pluto

Scientists from Nasa's New Horizons mission claim to have identified some cloud candidates on Pluto after examining images taken during the spacecrafts July 2015 flight through the dwarf planet system

IANS October 19, 2016 15:11:36 IST
Nasa's New Horizons mission finds hint of cloud on Pluto

New York: Scientists from Nasa's New Horizons mission claim to have identified some cloud candidates on Pluto after examining images taken during the spacecrafts July 2015 flight through the dwarf planet system.

Nasas New Horizons mission finds hint of cloud on Pluto

A view of Pluto from Nasa's New Horizons. Reuters

"We're excited about the exploration ahead for New Horizons, and also about what we are still discovering from Pluto flyby data," said Alan Stern, principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Stern said Pluto's complex, layered atmosphere is hazy and appears to be mostly free of clouds, but the team has spied a handful of potential clouds in images taken with New Horizons' cameras.

"If there are clouds, it would mean the weather on Pluto is even more complex than we imagined," Stern said.

Scientists already knew from telescope observations that Pluto's icy surface below that atmosphere varied widely in brightness.

Data from the flyby not only confirms that, it also shows that the brightest areas (such as sections of Pluto's large heart-shaped region) are among the most reflective in the solar system.

"That brightness indicates surface activity," said Bonnie Buratti, a science team co-investigator from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

While Pluto shows many kinds of activity, one surface process apparently missing is landslides.

Surprisingly, though, they have been spotted on Pluto's largest moon, Charon, itself some 1,200 kilometres across.

The scientists also revealed that New Horizons is set to fly past 2014 MU69 — a Kuiper Belt object currently about 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto — on January 1, 2019.

Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that the distant object is as red, if not redder, than Pluto.

The New Horizons spacecraft is currently 5.5 billion kilometres from Earth and about 540 million kilometres beyond Pluto, speeding away from the sun at about 14 kilometres every second.

The findings were discussed earlier this week at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California.

Updated Date:

also read

Russian actress, director on making first-ever film in space: 'It posed both artistic and technical challenges'
Entertainment

Russian actress, director on making first-ever film in space: 'It posed both artistic and technical challenges'

"On the one hand, it felt like an eternity but on the other hand, it felt like we just arrived and immediately need to return," says actress Yulia Peresild on shooting the first ever film in space.

Australia will build NASA a semi-automatic rover to find oxygen on the moon in 2026
science

Australia will build NASA a semi-automatic rover to find oxygen on the moon in 2026

ASA deputy head Anthony Murfett said NASA was by technology to remotely control huge dump trucks, from 1,600 km, that transport iron ore from mines in northwest Australia.

James Webb: Most powerful space telescope built, will look back at the Dark Ages of the universe
science

James Webb: Most powerful space telescope built, will look back at the Dark Ages of the universe

The Dark Ages ended when gravity formed the first stars and galaxies that eventually began to emit the first light and astronomers don’t know when it happened, the best guess is that it was several hundred million years after the Big Bang.