Pluto reveals more secrets

March 17, 2016
Image from "The atmosphere of Pluto as observed by New Horizons," by G.R. Gladstone et al. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the March 18, 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by G.R. Gladstone at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and colleagues was titled, "The atmosphere of Pluto as observed by New Horizons." Credit: G.R. Gladstone et al. / Science (2016)

Eight months after its encounter with the New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto continues to surprise the scientists who study this distant world.

Pluto and its largest moon Charon comprise what is essentially a binary planet: two bodies of comparable size orbiting a common center of mass. The four smaller moons—Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra—are thought to have formed at the same time as Charon in the aftermath of a large impact.

"Consequently, we expected the small moons to resemble Charon," says Mark Showalter, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute. "Instead, we find that their surfaces are much brighter and much older than that of their large sibling."

In addition, scientists are puzzled by the moons' unusual rotation characteristics, as they orbit rapidly around axes that are tilted sideways.

"The gravitational tides from Pluto should have slowed down and re-oriented the spins of these moons by now, but they haven't," noted Showalter. The New Horizons team speculates that collisions from outside objects might cause the strange rotation of these moons.

New Horizons has revealed surprisingly complex geology on the surfaces of Pluto and Charon. Pluto sports a bright 1,000 km-wide plain, informally called Sputnik Planum, that is filled with volatile nitrogen and carbon monoxide ices. This feature shows no craters, which attests to ongoing geological activity. Beyond the smooth plains, there are ancient cratered terrains that display impacts that Pluto has endured over millions and billions of years. The rims and ridges are frosted with ice.

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Most inner moons in the solar system keep one face pointed toward their central planet; this animation shows that certainly isn’t the case with the small moons of Pluto, which behave like spinning tops. Pluto is shown at center with, in order, from smaller to wider orbit: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, Hydra.

"Among the more puzzling features are the two tall mounds with central depressions that look like volcanoes," says Ross Beyer, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute. "Wright Mons is about 2 miles tall and 90 miles wide, and Piccard Mons is even larger, about 3.5 miles tall and 140 miles across. They could be ice volcanoes, but this will take more analysis to establish."

New Horizons observations have also revolutionized our understanding of Pluto's atmosphere.

"We were very surprised to observe that Pluto's atmosphere has a multi-layered bluish haze that extends from the surface to altitudes above 200 km. The upper atmosphere is much colder than expected, which greatly reduces the rate at which it escapes from Pluto. We've also measured the surface pressure for the first time—about 11 microbars—and we've discovered that the temperature structure of the lower atmosphere varies with location," says David Hinson, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute.

Image from "The small satellites of Pluto as observed by New Horizons," by H.A. Weaver et al. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the March 18, 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by author at institution in location, and colleagues was titled, "The small satellites of Pluto as observed by New Horizons." Credit: H.A. Weaver et al. / Science (2016)

Pluto's partner—Charon—offers its own surprises. Its water-rich icy surface is distinctly red around its northern region; a coloration due to tholin, a molecule produced by ultraviolet irradiation of simpler compounds like methane and ethane. There are patches of ammonia ice evident on Charon as well.

"Unlike Pluto, Charon's surface is quite old and uniform. It's covered with water ice with low amounts of ammonia mixed in, and is not as geologically active as Pluto," says SETI Institute scientist Cristina Dalle Ore.

Credit: SETI Institute

A March 18 special issue of Science features articles on the continuing analysis of Pluto and its satellites. With roughly half of the New Horizons data returned to Earth so far, scientists anticipate more discoveries and a deeper understanding of this dwarf planet system.

Credit: SETI Institute

Credit: SETI Institute

Explore further: Mysterious Kerberos revealed by New Horizons

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FredJose
1.7 / 5 (12) Mar 17, 2016
The gravitational tides from Pluto should have slowed down and re-oriented the spins of these moons by now, but they haven't," noted Showalter.

To complete the picture, Showalter expected this re-orientation to have occurred over a period of billions of years assumed existence which is the reason for this surprise.
One should note that there is no way to determine the age of Pluto and its satellites firstly at this great distance and secondly purely and simply because one cannot go back into time to effect an actual visual observation. The age of Pluto is ASSUMED. Period.
Hence we once again have the situation whereby the actual, real observation contradicts and refutes the assumed stellar and planetary formation theory.

chileastro
2.8 / 5 (18) Mar 17, 2016
What an ignorant git. Man, this site attracts 'em like flies!
FredJose
1.4 / 5 (9) Mar 17, 2016
Pluto sports a bright 1,000 km-wide plain, informally called Sputnik Planum, that is filled with volatile nitrogen and carbon monoxide ices. This feature shows no craters, which attests to ongoing geological activity. Beyond the smooth plains, there are ancient cratered terrains that display impacts that Pluto has endured over millions and billions of years. The rims and ridges are frosted with ice.
Here then is the direct contradiction between real, actual observation of geological activity versus the non-scientific story telling of billions of years. Pluto is too small for such geological activity to have remained, even with nuclear fission to drive it which is not evident in Pluto anyway. There's also no place for gravitational tidal warming from another huge body. Hence the billions of years is simply storytelling. There's no support for that - in spite of multitudes of craters elsewhere since even that is unreliable to determine age..
FredJose
1.4 / 5 (11) Mar 17, 2016
What an ignorant git. Man, this site attracts 'em like flies!

I guess you're referring to yourself! I do not detect any logical argument to refute the statements I've made. Perhaps you don't have any because you don't know of any?
It seems that people like yourself only have insults to hurl instead of applying real arguments to the situation. Where is the superior reasoning power that is supposedly inherent in those who adhere to the Big Bang theory?
wduckss
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 17, 2016
"In addition, scientists are puzzled by the moons' unusual rotation characteristics, as they orbit rapidly around axes that are tilted sideways."

And the planet who have independent rotation, have tilted axis. The principle is the same (slight difference is "irregular" satellites form).

FredJose
"There's also no place for gravitational tidal warming from another huge body."

Here you must observe the temperature in another way. -210 ° C is the limit of solid and liquid nitrogen, which means that it is enough that the dissolved nitrogen. Various atoms and compounds having different melting points.
But I agree with the good part of your comments.
Vietvet
3.7 / 5 (12) Mar 17, 2016
There are no good parts to Freddieshitforbrains commenets.
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (12) Mar 18, 2016
FredJose claims
..there is no way to determine the age of Pluto and its satellites firstly at this great distance and secondly purely and simply because one cannot go back into time to effect an actual visual observation. The age of Pluto is ASSUMED. Period
No, mere/idle assumption, soundly based upon; Physics (& Math as primary tool set) in conjunction with Balance of probabilities (BoP)

FredJose, I get the distinct impression you're not aware of:-
https://en.wikipe...c_method

Several hundred years of Physics development via claim to hypothesis to experiment to theory/refinement & very close relationship with Math offers a scenario through BoP which exceeds *all* other possible claims by Very Large Margin (VLM)

As pertinent example within the Method Eg; look at origin, history, development of the "Theory of Gravity", how it arose, tested, how it was refined, retested & so on, it works !

Any credible alternative view at all please ?
wduckss
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 18, 2016
Similarly are claiming that, is heliocentrism impeccable (almost 2,000 years).
Science goes forward, the current framework of understanding of the Universe is an obstacle or a large stone around his neck on the way to the future.
For a while there are articles which confirm that steady growth of the body is the basis of creating a body.
Relation growth / gravity means that every body has a different age and that the processes are not as represented.
Science is always faith in the existing knowledge or skepticism which gives progress.
viko_mx
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 18, 2016
There is no physical way matter to consolidate in large matterial stuctures by gravity which is not able to stop the expanding with great speeds comsic clauds from gas and dust.
There is only magic way and the modern metaphysicians use this way rejecting the scientific principles. Their boring motive is power only to scratch their ego and their supreme value is vanity. It's nice that many people are dealing with much more meaningful activities.
Mike_Massen
2.5 / 5 (11) Mar 18, 2016
viko_mx claims
.. no physical way matter to consolidate in large matterial stuctures by gravity which is not able to stop the expanding with great speeds comsic clauds from gas and dust
Wrong

You claimed earlier "I know physics well", then your calculations will show depends on field strength re mass & distance & relative velocity, then Prove it with YOUR calculations, add limits re calculus to cement your mere facile claim with substance ?

viko_mx claims
There is only magic way and the modern metaphysicians use this way rejecting the scientific principles
Wrong

Only someone who Lied about their claim "I know physics well" would write rubbish, use Maths with Physics, its NOT magic, ie Physics !

viko_mx says
Their boring motive is power only to scratch their ego and their supreme value is vanity
Your writing betrays you, NIL Physics, NIL Maths, vain claim :-(

viko_mx says
..people are dealing with much more meaningful activities
Such as ?
viko_mx
1 / 5 (6) Mar 19, 2016
When you will give scientific explanations consistent with scientific facts instead of pointless declarations?
Never as usual?
Mike_Massen
2.5 / 5 (11) Mar 19, 2016
viko_mx asks
When you will give scientific explanations consistent with scientific facts instead of pointless declarations?
I'm not going to 'give' explanations to someone like you who only:-

1. Twists explanations/facts to obfuscate Science as dumb attempts to proselytize !
2. Claims "I know Physics well" which has been proven to be a Lie & doesn't apologise !
3. Wastes time expecting others to supply basic Physics that YOU can find first easily !
4. Muddies the waters with mindless unintelligent rants as (again) means to proselytize !

viko_mx says
Never as usual?
Of course as YOU have been caught in a Lie & often !

Why in hell would you be so naive to claim "I know Physics well" when easily caught Lying ?

Why are you here ?

Do high school course in basic Physics, Maths, Experimental Methods & principle of Scientific Method & have integrity to acknowledge you've lied before your god bearing False Witness - be ready for hell, ie Go away !
viko_mx
1 / 5 (7) Mar 19, 2016
As a obedient freeloader of the system you do not defend science but mathaphysic invented to defendf status quo. You have nothing do do with real science based on 100% verifiable facts.
Communicating with people who obstinately deny the truth is poinless activity.
Mike_Massen
2.6 / 5 (10) Mar 19, 2016
viko_mx claims
As a obedient freeloader of the system you do not defend science but mathaphysic invented to defendf status quo
What drugs are you on, what rubbish you spout, be specific are you able ?

You claimed "I know Physics well" but, can't prove it, you're a Liar & Cheat !

viko_mx claims
You have nothing do do with real science based on 100% verifiable facts
Ok, give an example of Your 100% fact Eg from what source & when ?

viko_mx claims
Communicating with people who obstinately deny the truth is poinless activity
Indeed, then go away to a religious forum where you can proselytize & NOT here, answer my all questions ?

Why is your god a very bad communicator ?

Why does it act same as an ugly Devil ?

Why do you follow untestable, unverifiable claim which can't be proven - ever ?

Why can't you see you suffer emotional hypnosis to a primitive idea of a deity ?

Tell us attributes of your deity as observable Facts ?

Or go away
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2016
Why do you follow untestable, unverifiable claim which can't be proven - ever ?

Says the Big Bang cosmology guy....Religiosity isn't only reserved for the god believers, it's alive and well in the theoretical sciences such as GRism, BBism, AGWism, among other untestable/unverifiable claims....
Mike_Massen
2.3 / 5 (9) Mar 20, 2016
cantdrive85 claims
Why do you follow untestable, unverifiable claim which can't be proven - ever ?
Says the Big Bang cosmology guy
No. You obviously don't understand Scientific Method is founded upon "The Balance of Probabilities" (BoP).

We've been down your rabid holes before where you show immense emotional attachments to types of certainty others are wrong automatically because there is facile dissent, all I've ever seen from you is criticism, nil maths, nil physics, nil understanding of even middle school algebra !

Can you converge with attention & discipline, is that possible cantdrive85 ?

1. Big Bang (BB) so far, is best fit re math & current proven Physics, ie BB predicated on current proven Physics & thus an extrapolation vis a vis BoP & CMB observations

In your naive one liner view, can you for a change articulate better what "Theory" has any comparable BoP ?

2. AGW based on proven radiative transfer, get education please re IR spectra
Phys1
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 20, 2016

cd, fj, wduckss, viko are trolls.
A troll is a nuisance, like a tick on your dog, but discussing with a troll actually kills a thread.
The guidelines therefore specify "do not feed the troll".
Mike_Massen
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2016
Phys1 says
cd, fj, wduckss, viko are trolls
A troll is a nuisance, like a tick on your dog, but discussing with a troll actually kills a thread.
The guidelines therefore specify "do not feed the troll"
No & few reasons:-

1. Lumping all together from unclear background oversimplifies unit label is an unhelpful downward prejudice as maybe some are sincere so get missed, in any case its opportunity to articulate, improve & be more useful/educative

2. Unchallenged claims don't help the innocent & immature who visit & get manipulated, legacy to improve, your choice

3. Pointing out errors in logic/method/addressing education offering improvement raises the bar so subsequent 'troll' behavior dissuaded - classic/operant conditioning negative reinforcement

4. I'm not only one exploring profiling script re behaviors, interactions offer psychology & "intelligent agent" examples

5. Evidence shows threads aren't "killed" & easy to add something useful, your choice
Mike_Massen
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 21, 2016
Upon reflection for Phys1 & others who might be concerned about improving the forums I have to ask
"How can it help Science communication in general or this forum specifically to have unsupportable claims *not* challenged ?"
especially so basis for interactions on these forums needs to be of pertinent (mostly) technical nature where possible & if some believe its not then tell us why it shouldn't ?

Do we want this denigrating into a mere chatroom with facile rants ?
Eg Mindless quoting "Blah blah" only to make impression another wrote it but quoting their *own* dumb posts, yuck !

Its not to say anyone *has to* address claims, its up to them & if they decide not to, it cannot ever be interpreted they're liars not knowing a topic - that's a facile & ugly simplistic low IQ tactic reminiscent of worst in politics

ie. I've nothing against choosing not to counter claims, as the focus & timing is entirely up to them, there's no requirement for expediency, free choice

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