NASA Announcement: Pluto Has a "Blue Sky," Frozen Water, New Images Show
NASA unveiled new images and data from it's New Horizons spacecraft which show Pluto has bright blue skies and frozen water Thursday afternoon. The announcement follows the release of new images and data, unveiled last week, that reveal the landscapes of the dwarf planet and it's moon, Charon.
"Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt?" New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said in a statement, according to Independent. "It's gorgeous."
"A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles," fellow New Horizons researcher Carly Howett notes. "On Earth, those particles are very tiny nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be larger, but still relatively small, soot-like particles we call tholins."
The earlier images, released last week, revealed stretches of mountains over 300 miles long, a 1,500 mile long canyon and possibly even frozen water. "An internal water ocean could have frozen long ago, and the resulting volume change could have led to Charon cracking open, allowing water-based lavas to reach the surface at that time," New Horizons researcher Paul Schenk said in a statement, The Guardian reports.
NASA's latest advances in data and imagery are in large part due to the New Horizons mission, which aims to explore the furthest points of the solar system while capturing stunning photographs along the way. The New Horizons spacecraft embarked on its journey in 2006, with a trajectory set for Pluto by this year.