There are sections in Pluto where enormous ice structures occur. Researchers finally consider they know how they are made.
Researchers have cracked one of Pluto’s most puzzling mysteries. In 2105, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto. What it witness near Pluto’s equator has puzzled researchers ever since: Huge spikes of methane ice that stand as high as a NYC skyscraper.
“We asked ourselves why it forms all of those ridges as opposed to just being big blobs of ice on the ground.”
-Jeffrey Moore, NASA Ames Research Center
The answer discloses that Pluto’s weather is more active than previously thought.
Minor types of these icy forests exist on Earth. The structures are called penitentes. They form near Earth’s equator on top of tall mountains. Up there, circumstances are right to turn snow straight to water vapor. This procedure — called sublimation — generates hard, sharp spikes of snow.
NASA researchers believe the similar procedure happens on Pluto. But this could only be possible if Pluto had been warmer in the past. Otherwise, the methane ice couldn’t sublimate away. Researchers say this is evidence of Pluto’s composite climate.
The planet marginally cools, warms, and cools again over millions of years.
Turns out, Pluto isn’t just a ball of ice after all. You can read the whole research here.