New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto
Following the recent trend of releasing new images on Thursday's, the New Horizons team today released the first color images of Pluto's atmospheric hazes, revealing they are blue!
“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It’s gorgeous,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.
“That striking blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles,” added science team researcher Carly Howett, of SwRI. “A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles. On Earth, those particles are very tiny nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be larger — but still relatively small — soot-like particles we call tholins.”
In another discovery, New Horizons detected a number of exposed water regions of water ice on Pluto. “Large expanses of Pluto don’t show exposed water ice,” said science team member Jason Cook, of SwRI, “because it’s apparently masked by other, more volatile ices across most of the planet. Understanding why water appears exactly where it does, and not in other places, is a challenge that we are digging into.”