(Mirror Daily, United States) – According to new images from NASA that show an “infrared” dwarf planet, Pluto has more frozen water than thought.
The images show that most of the planet’s surface is covered by ice. It looks like there is a lot of water there and most of the time it is frozen. Pluto’s orbital period is of about 248 Earth years. This means that winters can last even for a few decades. Does anyone else see a Game of Thrones-like world here?
Anyway, even if it’s not winter, there are still ice mountains on the planet. Why is this news? Apparently, when astronomers first tried to measure how much water there is on Pluto, they compared its spectral signature with a spectral template of water ice. The spectral signature is given by the photons reflected at the surface.
These first results were inconclusive, or well, at that time showed there was very little water on Pluto. The reason is that the water there is not pure H2O, but a mix of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. Therefore, the water element in its pure form was hidden by the presence of the other elements.
Now, with the help of infrared imagery, the scientists were able to “mute” everything that was not water and at the same time amplify the image of the water ice. The result showed them the dwarf planet has a lot of H2O.
Of course, there are parts of the planet covered by a gigantic glacier supposedly made of nitrogen /methane/carbon monoxide ice. So, in those areas, water is indeed scarce. However, it’s still covers about half of the planet.
Although the images show quite a smooth surface of the planet, the ice forms mountains and valleys pretty much as rock does here on Earth. The other ices, which are not made of pure water are similar to snow on Earth. They don’t last forever, but are vulnerable to the sunlight that reaches the planet.
All in all, it looks like Pluto is an icy dwarf planet with lots of H2O. The ice water never melts there and is responsible for the planet’s forms of relief. Hopefully, we’ll get to see other images of the planet and discover how exactly the ice mountains look there.
Image source: www.bing.com