California, October 1, 2017 : Pluto’s surface consists of sharp blades of ice that shoot to the height of skyscrapers in Dubai. And scientists now might just be able to tell precisely how these dramatic structures arose.
The revelations of ice on Pluto first altered our understandings in July 2015 when NASA’s New Horizons mission flew past the dwarf planet and sent images of astounding terrains back to earth. Among its numerous discoveries were pictures of strange formations, resembling giant blades of ice, whose origin could not be traced.
Now scientists have come up with a scientific explanation for this ‘knife-like landscape’.
According to data obtained by New Horizons, these structures are made almost entirely of methane ice. While the cause of these peaks is still a mystery, scientists contend that they are likely to arise following a specific kind of disintegration that wore away their surfaces, leaving dramatic peaks and sharp partitions on the planet.
These land edges can be found at the extreme heights on Pluto’s surface, close to its equator and soar as high as the New York skyscrapers. Scientists identify these high cutting blades as a complex feature of the planet’s atmosphere and topographical history.
According to Jeffrey Moore, a research scientist associated with the New Horizons’ mission, presently at NASA’S Ames Research Center in California, the knife-like terrain began with methane solidifying out of the climate at extreme elevations on Pluto. This can be understood to happen in the same manner as frost freezing on Earth, the only difference being in the scale of the two.
These structures can also be found on Earth and are called penitentes. However, here they extend only up to a couple of meters in height in the high-altitude snowfields along the planet’s equator. Researchers believe slight inconsistencies can transform them into dramatic spikes of snow as sunlight sublimates a few sections faster than others and prompting longer and spikier structures.
The discovery of penitentes on Pluto highlights its complex surface and air temperature changes.
The new finding is set to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Icarus.
– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala