New Pluto images: Nasa New Horizons team reveal stunning pictures of 'glacier-like' flowing ice

The New Horizons team unveiled their new findings of glacier-style moving ice formations on the surface of Pluto

Doug Bolton
Saturday 25 July 2015 10:47
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This image of Pluto clearly shows the planet's atmosphere being illuminated by the sun's rays
This image of Pluto clearly shows the planet's atmosphere being illuminated by the sun's rays

Shortly after their last major announcement, when they revealed the clearest photos of Pluto ever taken, Nasa's New Horizons team have revealed more images of the distant, cold planet.

The images, taken by the New Horizons probe while it was travelling at around 11 miles a second, reveal Pluto, which is 4.6 billion miles from Earth, to be an icy world with glacier-like flowing ice on its surface.

John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, who on Thursday was part of the team that announced the discovery of Earth-like planet Kepler 452b, said: "We knew that a mission to Pluto would bring some surprises, and now -- 10 days after closest approach -- we can say that our expectation has been more than surpassed."

This satellite image of Pluto, 4.6 billion miles away from Earth, shows flowing ice on its surface

A few hours after making a close approach, the probe turned its camera back towards Pluto, capturing rays of sunlight streaming through its atmosphere, creating an eerie eclipse effect.

The image shows two distinct layers of haze, miles above the surface, that makes up Pluto's alien atmosphere.

After studying the fascinating images, Grunsfeld sad the team saw "flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges," and a "diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling."

This image includes colour data from the probe's Ralph instrument, which captures the different areas on the surface of the icy planet

The 'ice' that has been spotted on Pluto's surface is not made from water, but is a frozen mix of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices.

At a temperature of -234 degrees celsius, Pluto is more than capable of freezing most chemicals that we know as gases here on earth.

As well as this frozen mixture, scientists also spotted revealing signs of recent geologic activity - something that researchers had hoped to spot but didn't expect.

This image show the complexity of Pluto - including its icy plains, two mountain ranges, and areas where ancient craters have been overrun by newer ice deposits

“We’ve only seen surfaces like this on active worlds like Earth and Mars,” said mission co-investigator John Spencer of the Southwest Reserach Institute.

“I'm really smiling.”

With the discovery of 'Earth 2.0' earlier this week, and now amazing new images of Pluto, it's hoped that Nasa researchers will have plenty more to smile about in future.

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