Pluto Has More Ice Water Than Initially Thought, NASA Reveals

Posted: Feb 1 2016, 9:28pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Pluto has More Water Ice than Initially Thought, NASA Reveals
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Ice water is considerably more widespread across Pluto's surface than was previously known.

Pluto is covered in much more frozen water that what astronomers initially thought.

NASA has released more advanced map of the dwarf plant and it shows abundance of water ice on Pluto’s surface.

A new false-color map was created using data obtained by New Horizon Spacecraft after its historic close flyby of the dwarf planet in July last year, from a range of about 67,000 miles. 

Researchers combined two scans of Pluto taken by Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument in infrared light and created a multispectral Pluto, covering the full hemisphere in a way seen from the spacecraft as it flew past the dwarf planet. 

NASA researchers developed a “data cube” or a three dimensional array to highlight the features of the planet. It shows that water ice is the crustal bedrock of Pluto on which more volatile changes in ice patterns occur with each changing season.

“The new map shows exposed water ice to be considerably more widespread across Pluto’s surface than was previously known – an important discovery.” NASA scientists wrote.

Despite the much greater sensitivity of LEISA, the instrument can only show those areas which are either rich in water ice or low in methane. It’s unable to detect ice covered with methane. Moreover, the map also identified very little or no ice water in the places like planet’s ‘heart’ called Sputnik Planum and Lowell Regio, which does not necessarily mean the absence of water ice but points to the fact that it is hidden beneath a thick blanket of other ices such as methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide. 

Due to the limitations of the model, researchers are adding more data and trying to improve it.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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