The New Horizons mission revealed surprising findings about Pluto. The planet was discovered in 1930, by Clyde Tombaugh. Now, the New Horizons unmanned mission sheds new light on Pluto:
The planet is geologically active. Its features are among the strangest in the solar system. Pluto has a large field of methane ice, dubbed “snakeskin terrain”. The core is molten hot, just like the Earth. Scientists did not expect to find geological activity so far away from the sun.
The mission had three minutes to cross over the dwarf planet’s surface and look into its mysteries. It also photographed the following moons of Pluto: Charon, Styx, Nix, Hydra, and Kerberos.
Pluto was the last planet of the solar system which remained unexplored until recently. Now, scientists have an almost complete picture of our solar system.
The planet has nitrogen glaciers, which are similar to Earth glaciers and mysterious floating mountains. As the glaciers on Pluto move, they flow next to floating mountains made of water ice and carve channels on Pluto’s surface.
The area below the planet’s surface remains unexplored. Could it host a submerged ocean? This idea has got scientists excited.
Some of the mountains look like volcanoes, but instead of molten lava they erupt icy mixtures. So far, the close ups have led to more questions than answers.
Charon was another world which was photographed by the New Horizons spacecraft. The Charon moon is darker than Pluto and has a red pole called Mordor Macula.
The surface of the moon is fractured, but scientists don’t yet know why this happened over time. It doesn’t show too many signs of meteor hits, though.
The other moons are also more colorful than scientists had expected, and brighter than Pluto, the planet they gravitate around. Their orbits are tilted, and they rotate rapidly. Researchers can’t explain these moons’ origin, so the mystery is probably going to be uncovered by the next generation.
Decades of data on Pluto are now in question, and even telescope observations have come under doubt since planets can look differently from the distance.
Scientists have a lot more questions than answers. Some of these burning questions are: “Why are these moons orbiting Pluto brighter than the planet itself?” “Why does Pluto look radically different from a close perspective?” “Were conditions once different on Pluto?”
For now, Pluto remains an enigma destined for future generations of space explorers to solve.
Image Source – Wikipedia