Ice flows, haze offer more clues to Pluto’s geology | Science News

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Ice flows, haze offer more clues to Pluto’s geology

Latest New Horizons data hint at underground ocean

6:02pm, July 24, 2015
false-color image of pluto

SPREADING THE LOVE  One of the latest false color images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft suggests that the dwarf planet’s heart may push exotic ices to its edges.  

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Exotic ices flow across Pluto’s surface, and its reddish color appears to come from a thin haze, the latest report from the New Horizons spacecraft reveals. The new finds have set scientists scrambling to construct the story of how Pluto’s climate and weather work.

A stunning image of the dwarf planet in silhouette, released July 24, reveals a layer of haze extending at least 130 kilometers above Pluto’s surface. That’s five times farther than predicted, Michael Summers, a New Horizons scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said at a news conference. Still, Pluto’s surface pressure has been sliced in half over the last two years, suggesting that half its atmosphere has frozen and fallen to the dwarf planet’s surface.

Seeing a haze shows how the atmosphere of Pluto and its surface are connected, Summers said. The atmosphere has methane gas. When ultraviolet light from the sun

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