New Horizons discovers the frozen plains of Pluto

Image Credit:Nasa

After its mountain ranges, Pluto showed the US probe a large blank icy plain of any impact. The scientists also determined that its atmosphere escaped from the planet because of its weak gravity.

Pluto is revealed gradually. Scientists from NASA unveiled a new photo of Pluto. “This is not an easy area to decipher,” said Jeffrey Moore, one of the mission scientists. “So we do not see recent impact craters and the surface of this area is relatively recent, less than 100 million years. It is probably still being shaped by geological processes.”

“The discovery of this vast plain young enough without impact craters on Pluto exceeds all our expectations,” he added. The dwarf planet is in the Kuiper Belt, a vast pile of debris beyond the orbit of Neptune, and is therefore normally bombarded with asteroids regularly.

An atmosphere that escapes the planet

Scientists expect to discover so many impact craters on its surface, which does not seem to be the case in view of the first images received. The team of the New Horizons mission called this icy plain “Plain Sputnik”, named after the first artificial satellite sent into space by the Soviet Union.

Another discovery, the researchers found that Pluto’s atmosphere, composed primarily of nitrogen, escapes the dwarf planet, because of its low gravity, at a fairly significant rate “of about 500 tons per hour” Fran Bagenal as a scientific mission. It hopes to refine its estimates and better understand this process with future data deliveries sent by the probe.

“The probe is now at 3.5 million kilometers of Pluto (she went as close to 12 400 km) and it works as planned,” noted Alan Stern, principal scientist for the mission. He felt that she had sent for the moment only 2% of the data collected earlier this week.