Pluto was widely believed to be a plain and cold object in space not even worthy of the title planet. However, after the New Horizons probe sent its last package of data back home scientists were left dazzled by the diversity found in the solar system’s outermost planet body.
After a long period of planned silence, the probe sent back a significant amount of pictures as it flew the closest it ever will to Pluto. No one was sure of what they would find but the answer was more stunning than any of the scientists expected.
Being so far away from the Sun, it was expected for Pluto’s geography to be somewhat dull with the exception of meteor craters. The heat received from the Sun is thought to be one of the factors that influences massive geographical changes such the appearance of new mountain ranges.
The pictures revealed that there are entire regions of Pluto that show no markings of meteor impacts, suggesting that the land has reformed. Furthermore, entire mountain ranges with heights of up to 3 km have been clearly spotted. Researchers cannot explain how this have appeared on a world previously thought to be geographically inactive.
Wide plains covered with strange ridges have also been found on the planet’s surface, as well as smaller hill formations. The project’s leader Jeff Moore was deeply impressed with the pictures they received and claims their findings will refute many theories about Pluto.
Another picture revealed what has been described as a tail coming from the planet’s atmosphere. The most common theory right now is that the tail is in fact Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere escaping into space. This ‘tail’ seems to have 1000 miles in length.
Though they are eager to access all the information, scientists will have to be patient as downloading the entire data from NASA’s Deep Space Network (which has picked up the probe’s transmissions) will take more than a year. But if what was shown so far is any indication of the future, Pluto may have plenty of surprises in store for us.
The New Horizons Probe has already departed Pluto and its moons. It will now head towards the Kuipar Belt, a gigantic ring of asteroids found at the edge of our solar system. If the probe makes it safely that far, there are plans for it to go beyond the belt and exit the system.
Image Source: space.trendolizer.com