New Horizons imagery reveals small, frozen lake on Pluto

March 28, 2016
New Horizons imagery reveals small, frozen lake on Pluto
Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when – thanks to much higher pressure in Pluto's atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface – liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.

"In addition to this possible former lake, we also see evidence of channels that may also have carried liquids in Pluto's past," said Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator of New Horizons and lead author of the scientific paper.

This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum. Captured by the New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, the image shows details as small as about 430 feet (130 meters). At its widest point the possible lake appears to be about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.

Explore further: Ancient Pluto may have had lakes and rivers of nitrogen

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wduckss
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 28, 2016
No need to go outside the box if it is not a novelty in relation to achieved.
If there is a high likelihood that nitrogen at a temperature of -210 ° C becomes liquid (in limited areas of Pluto), this can happen at a daily level (particularly in the perihelion). Then the is not wise to mention the millions and billions of years (or retrace hypotheses next to evidence).
HeroHiro
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 28, 2016
No need to go outside the box if it is not a novelty in relation to achieved.
If there is a high likelihood that nitrogen at a temperature of -210 ° C becomes liquid (in limited areas of Pluto), this can happen at a daily level (particularly in the perihelion). Then the is not wise to mention the millions and billions of years (or retrace hypotheses next to evidence).


You're ignoring the pressure difference. Nitrogen freezes at -210°C at standard conditions of 1 atm. The atmospheric pressure on Pluto is several tens-hundreds of thousands less compared to Earth.
compose
Mar 28, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
matt_s
5 / 5 (2) Mar 28, 2016
@compose

Would make for an interesting science lander, Philae style? ;)

wduckss
1 / 5 (1) Mar 29, 2016
I watch only the state of the evidence on the ground. "Pluto's surface is composed of more than 98 percent nitrogen ice, with traces of methane and carbon monoxide."
"Pluto has a tenuous atmosphere consisting of nitrogen (N 2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO), which are in equilibrium with their ices on Pluto's surface." Wikipedia etc.
Behavior of nitrogen and other participants of atoms and molecules not the same, on Earth at 290 ° K and Pluto at 70 ° K, and the atmosphere are different. Sublimation exists, it is evident from the composition of the atmosphere.
FredJose
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2016
Given the currently assumed composition of Pluto, it would be highly entertaining to hear people speculate just how it formed all by itself millions/billions of years ago with no outside help whatsoever.
The numerous speculative descriptions of the many incredible [and almost magical ] physical processes required to assemble such a gaseous planet in almost pure vacuum [all by itself] would be very, very interesting indeed.

barakn
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2016
Which could mean, if we would scratch the surface of fast frozen nitrogen lake, then this lake would literally explode under our feet. -zephir

Because one of the untold numbers of meteorites that have struck it wouldn't have triggered it long before now. Uh-huh. Right.

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