Home away from home: scientists have discovered that Mars used to have long-lasting lakes and Pluto has blue skies.
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The dwarf planet may look like it has nothing in common with Earth, but new images from NASA show Pluto has blue skies and patches of icy water.
NASA’s New Horizons probe returned its first color images of Pluto’s atmospheric haze, to the delight of researchers.
“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It’s gorgeous,” Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement.
The bluish haze is likely caused by red and gray particles in the planet’s atmosphere that scatter blue light, similar to the why our sky is blue, according to the statement.
“That striking blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles,” researcher Carly Howett, said in a statement. “A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles.”
On earth, the particles are made up of “very tiny” nitrogen molecules while Pluto’s atmosphere is made of larger, “soot-like particles” called tholins.
On Thursday, NASA also revealed that the probe spotted icy patches of red water on the planet’s surface. Researchers said the icy patches appeared most often in “bright red” areas. NASA New Horizons tweeted about the new discoveries and wrote “enjoy!”
NASA is still processing images taken when New Horizons flew by Pluto on July 14. And the images are truly a gift that keeps on giving. Using data released by NASA, Björn Jónsson of Iceland, processed and created an animated visualization of what New Horizons saw when it flew by the dwarf planet.
Launched in 2006, the probe is currently 3.1 billion miles from Earth.
Gallery: Amazing images of Pluto
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