Gorgeous new spacecraft images reveal Pluto’s true colors
Scientists gathering for international space conference now have one more topic to discuss.
The child in me is squealing with glee, and the adult in me is writing an article about the child in me squealing with glee. That's how much Pluto-related news strikes at my core. But until now, no one has really been able to accurately depict what the planet looks like to, say, Plutonians.
But that all changed last week, when NASA's New Horizon satellite beamed down a variety of images of the dwarf planet back to our own planet. NASA released the images Thursday.
The big news: Pluto has a blue sky. It forms when the planet emits nitrogen. Once the nitrogen gets into the air, the sun’s ultraviolet rays ionize the nitrogen molecules, which combine into larger particles that look blue.
"Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It's gorgeous," Alan Stern, the principal scientist for New Horizons, said in a statement.
All this comes right in time for the 66th International Astronautical Conference, which will begin in Israel on Monday. Buzz Aldrin will be the keynote speaker at the Jerusalem conference which will host thousands of participants. Perhaps the legendary astronaut will be able to tell us what seeing a celestial body for the first time is like.
Scientists also discovered ice patches on the planet. Mysteriously enough, the ice is red. The New Horizon’s team suspects the red water is connected to the particles in Pluto’s atmosphere that make its sky blue.
And the clearest-ever photo of the planet's ground:
Some majestic mountains and rugged plains:
The literal edge of the night:
So we're talking about a blue sky and red ice lakes, a scene so cool, it makes me want to don a cowboy hat and gallop out onto the galactic frontier, along with an appropriately named, trusty canine sidekick:
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