Monday, July 27, 2015
Life On Pluto! What is it like?
NASA's Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto Reaches it's Historic Encounter
After a decade-long journey through our solar system, NASA's New Horizons has made its approach to Pluto.
New Horizons is showing us it's approach to Pluto, and Pluto's surface, along with it's moon Charon.
Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from NASA's New Horizons mission, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.
The hazes detected are a key element in creating the complex hydrocarbon compounds that give Pluto’s surface its reddish hue.
Models suggest the hazes form when ultraviolet sunlight breaks up methane gas particles, a simple hydrocarbon in Pluto's atmosphere. The breakdown of methane triggers the buildup of more complex hydrocarbon gases. As these hydrocarbons fall to the lower, colder parts of the atmosphere, they condense into ice particles that create the hazes.
The new images show fascinating details within the Texas-sized plain, informally named Sputnik Planum, which lies within the western half of Pluto's heart-shaped feature, known as Tombaugh Regio. There, a sheet of ice clearly appears to have flowed,and may still be flowing,in a manner similar to glaciers on Earth.
New compositional data from New Horizons’ Ralph instrument indicate the center of Sputnik Planum is rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices.
Surface temperatures can reach as low as 33 K
(-240 °C or -400 °F).
Not only does water freeze solid at these temperatures, but other liquids and gases that are present on Pluto’s surface – such as methane (CH4), nitrogen gas
(N²), and carbon monoxide (CO) – also freeze solid.
While Pluto has a thin atmosphere, it consists mainly of nitrogen gas, methane and carbon monoxide, which exist in equilibrium with their ices on the surface.