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October 31, 2015

NASA releases complete image of Pluto\’s crescent

NASA releases complete image of Pluto’s crescent

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pluto
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On Thursday, NASA released the first complete picture of Pluto’s crescent from the New Horizons probe. The probe captured the image with its Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, fifteen minutes after closest approach to the planet.

After nine years’ journey, New Horizons made closest approach to Pluto on July 14 and released the first coloured photo of the dwarf planet‘s atmospheric haze on October 8. An incomplete crescent photo of Pluto was released in September.

The photo shows different layers of the haze of Pluto’s faint atmosphere with Sputnik Planum, an icy plain, visible on the right side and uneven plateaus on the dark left side.

Charon’s Craters[]

Scientists also announced their discovery that 5km wide Organa crater on Charon, the largest satellite of Pluto, absorbed large amount of radiation of wavelength 2.2µm in an infrared scan, evidence of frozen ammonia. A nearby crater, named Skywalker, of comparable size showed the presence of water ice.

Will Grundy from the New Horizons composition team said “Why are these two similar-looking and similar-sized craters, so near to each other, so compositionally distinct?” He also proposed various ideas about the abundance of ammonia. The impact creating the crater could be more recent, or may have hit a subsurface ammonia pocket, or brought ammonia with it.

Studies in 2000 revealed that Charon has ammonia, but its concentration in the Organa crater was extraordinarily high.

Bill McKinnon, New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging deputy lead, called it “a fantastic discovery”. He further said “Concentrated ammonia is a powerful antifreeze on icy worlds, and if the ammonia really is from Charon’s interior, it could help explain the formation of Charon’s surface by cryovolcanism, via the eruption of cold, ammonia-water magmas.”


Crescent Pluto.
Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Organa crater.
Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.




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October 9, 2015

After Mars, NASA announces water ice on Pluto

After Mars, NASA announces water ice on Pluto

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Space
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The blue haze of Pluto.
Image: NASA.

NASA released yesterday the first coloured pictures of Pluto‘s blue atmosphere and water ice on the surface taken by the space probe New Horizons.

NASA said the haze particles may be grey or red in colour, but the scattering of light producing blue colour indicates the size of the particles. Smaller particles results in the scattering of the blue light. Scientists calls those soot like grey-red particles tholins.

The scientists suggest nitrogen and methane in the upper atmosphere, exposed to the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, break and combine to form more complex macromolecules similar to a process first observed on Titan, Saturn‘s satellite. Some of them grow to tholins. Eventually they are coated with volatile gas frost and fall to the surface, contributing to its red color.

Water ice on Pluto.
Image: NASA.

The data collected from the probe’s Ralph spectral composition mapper shows several small zones of water ice on Pluto. Alex Parker from Southwest Research institute (SwRI) tweeted, “We expected water-ice to be there, but we’ve searched for water-ice in Pluto’s spectrum for decades and not seen it before now”.

“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt?”, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of SwRI remarked; “It’s gorgeous.” “This world is alive […] It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology.”

The space probe has traveled over 100 million km (over 60 million miles) further since gathering the data on its Pluto flyby of July 14.


Related news[]

  • NASA announces water on Mars” — Wikinews, October 1, 2015
  • “NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto” — Wikinews, July 17, 2015

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Atmosphere of Pluto

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

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