New Delhi: The US space agency NASA recently released an image of the surface of the dwarft planet Pluto that is covered with churning ice 'cells'.
The large section of Pluto's icy surface that looks like a cosmic lava lamp has been constantly renewed by a process called convection that replace older surface ices with fresher material.
From the observation and data gathered by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in summer last year, New Horizons team members have determined the depth of the layer of solid nitrogen ice within Pluto's distinctive 'heart' feature which is informally known as Sputnik Planum.
The study is published in the June 2 issue of the journal Nature.
William B. McKinnon, from Washington University in St. Louis, who led the study and is a co-investigator on the New Horizons science team says,'For the first time, we can determine what these strange welts on the icy surface of Pluto really are,'
He further added that,“We found evidence that even on a distant cold planet billions of miles from Earth, there is sufficient energy for vigorous geological activity, as long as you have ‘the right stuff,’ meaning something as soft and pliable as solid nitrogen.”
'Sputnik Planum is one of the most amazing geological discoveries in 50-plus years of planetary exploration, and the finding by Mc Kinnon and others on our science team that this vast area—bigger than Texas and Oklahoma combined – is created by current day ice convection is among the most spectacular of the New Horizons mission,'said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.