When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sailed past Pluto in 2015, it captured an image of the dwarf planet’s heart-shaped geography. But while it was there, New Horizons also caught a glimpse of Pluto’s dark side. Continue reading More Evidence that Pluto Might Have a Subsurface Ocean
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is now 3.79 billion miles from Earth, or around 41 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and far beyond the orbit of Neptune. Using its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, it snapped these images of Kuiper Belt Objects 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 (right)—and they’re the furthest images ever taken away from Earth.
In recent months, there’s been growing evidence that Pluto is hiding a liquid water ocean beneath its frozen surface. New models by researchers at Brown University support this hypothesis, and take it one mind-boggling step further: Pluto’s ocean may be more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) deep.
Something very strange is going on around Pluto. The icy world that sits some 3.6 billion miles from the sun appears to be emitting x-rays—high energy radiation associated with gases with temperatures of a million degrees. That makes Pluto the furthest known x-ray source in our solar system. If confirmed, the finding could reshape our understanding of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere.
For spacecraft that zoom through the cosmos at thousands of miles per hour, calculating which one is traveling the fastest is more complicated than simply clocking the first to cross a finish line.
The Pluto flyby was arguably one of 2015’s top scientific achievements, maybe even one of the most memorable moments in the last decade. We now know what our ex-ninth planet looks like, and it’s spectacular. Pluto turned out to have some surprising features like glaciers, nitrogen lakes, ice volcanoes, and the list is growing. The New Horizons mission to Pluto has surpassed everyone’s expectations, and the good news is, the team has no plans of stopping yet. This summer, they’re hoping to win an extended mission to explore another strange new world.