Haze keeps Pluto cool by kicking heat out to space | Science News

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Haze keeps Pluto cool by kicking heat out to space

The dwarf planet may be the only place in the solar system to have its temperature regulated by solids, not gases

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1:00pm, November 15, 2017
Pluto's haze

HEAT SHIELD  Layers of haze in Pluto’s atmosphere, shown here in an image from the New Horizons spacecraft, could radiate heat away from the dwarf planet and cool it down.

Blame Pluto’s haze for the dwarf planet’s unexpected chilliness. Clusters of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere radiate heat back into space, keeping the dwarf planet cool, a new study suggests. Pluto may be the only world in the solar system whose atmospheric temperature is controlled by solid particles, rather than gas, researchers report in the Nov. 16 Nature.

Most planets’ temperatures are set by the gas content of their atmospheres, since certain gases trap heat from the sun more efficiently than others (SN Online: 6/8/15). Based on the nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide in Pluto’s atmosphere, scientists predicted the dwarf planet’s upper atmosphere would be a brisk –173° Celsius.

But when the New Horizons spacecraft

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