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NASA's New Horizons gives insight into Pluto's latest discoveries

New Horizons is all set to provide new insights on the solar system's farthest planet.

Updated: Dec 18, 2015, 11:23 AM IST
NASA's New Horizons gives insight into Pluto's latest discoveries
Image courtesy: NASA

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Known as the smallest and coldest planet in our solar system, Pluto came into focus in July, through NASA's New Horizons' Pluto flyby.

New Horizons has been treating space enthusiasts and skywatchers alike with eye-catching images of the solar system's dwarf planet.

ALSO READ: New Horizons: 5 discoveries NASA probe made on its journey to Pluto

Whether it is an image of Pluto in psychedelic colours or an image of Pluto's moons and ice volcanoes in colour, we have all been subjected to its striking evolution.

Now, in a new revelation by NASA and five months after the spacecraft took off for its Pluto probe, the New Horizons science team members are highlighting the latest findings from the Pluto flyby at this week’s American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco.

Outlining Pluto's geology and composition, along with details about the unexpected haze in the planet's atmosphere and its interaction with the solar winds, New Horizons is all set to provide new insights on the solar system's farthest planet.

As per NASA reports, geological evidence has been found for widespread past and present glacial activity, including the formation of networks of eroded valleys, some of which are “hanging valleys,” much like those in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

ALSO READ: See mesmerising Pluto in colour now

NASA further explained that the key to understanding activity on Pluto is the role of the deep layer of solid nitrogen and other volatile ices that fill the left side of Pluto’s ‘heart’—a vast, 620-mile (1,000-kilometer) -wide basin, informally named Sputnik Planum. New numerical models of thermal convection within this ice layer not only explain the numerous polygonal ice features seen on Sputnik Planum’s surface, but indicate this layer may be up to a few miles thick. Evaporation of this nitrogen and condensation on higher surrounding terrain leads to glacial flow back toward the basin; additional numerical models of nitrogen ice flow show how Pluto’s landscape has been and is still being transformed.