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Now We Know Why Pluto has These Strange Features on its Surface

Posted: December 21st, 2021, 1:40 pm
by fred8615
After New Horizons made its close flyby of Pluto in July of 2015, scientists were astounded at the incredible closeup views of Pluto’s surface. One of the most intriguing and mysterious features was a bright plain inside the prominent heart-shaped feature on Pluto, called “Tombaugh Regio” (Tombaugh Region) named after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

The region is composed of a broken surface of irregularly-shaped segments that appear to be geologically young because no impact craters are part of the terrain.

“This terrain is not easy to explain,” said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI), back in 2015. “The discovery of vast, craterless, very young plains on Pluto exceeds all pre-flyby expectations. There are a few ancient impact craters on Pluto. But other areas like “Tombaugh Regio” show no craters. The landform change processes are occurring into current geologic times.”

Now, a new study of this fascinating landscape reveals with more certainty how the unusual features were formed. A team led by Adrien Morison from the University of Exeter in the UK used sophisticated modelling techniques to show that these ice polygons are formed by the sublimation of nitrogen ice. This is a phenomenon where the solid ice turns directly from the solid to the gas phase due to the extremely negligible atmospheric pressure.

Read more: https://www.universetoday.com/153776/no ... s-surface/