No one should be surprised that our dear dwarf planet Pluto is an extremely cold place. Since it is situated at 40 times the distance between our planet and the Sun, sunlight doesn’t reach it. However, the observations made by the New Horizons spacecraft defied our expectations. It turns out the planet is 50 degrees Fahrenheit colder than we thought.
Pluto is much colder than we thought
As the observations have revealed, what makes Pluto colder might be an unusual phenomenon seen nowhere else in our Solar System. The planet seems to be surrounded by a hydrocarbon haze made of solid, not gaseous, particles. This haze present in the atmosphere is the one that controls the temperatures.
This is only a hypothesis at the moment but, thanks to the new James Webb Space Telescope, scientists will be able to see if this is what actually happens. However, they still managed to notice several layers of solid haze arranged around the planet. They assumed that these particles kept the energy from reaching Pluto, and sent it back into space as radiation.
After they ran several simulations of the phenomenon, they reached the same estimates as the numbers picked up by New Horizons. Therefore, this protective layer might really keep Pluto from getting warmer. Now, the next step is to confirm the existence of this haze.
The haze that controls the temperature is made entirely of solid particles
If this haze really surrounds Pluto, then it’s probably similar to the one around Titan, the moon of Saturn. Titan hides carbon particles in its layers, but scientists cannot yet tell what substance forms the haze on the dwarf planet.
Even if Titan has some solid particles in the atmosphere, gases are the ones which regulate its temperatures. Therefore, the two formations are not identical, making the one on Pluto a lot harder to understand. Fortunately, the James Webb Space Telescope is advanced enough to read the radiation signatures released by the haze.