New Delhi: The US space agency NASA recently released a first look of Pluto’s atmosphere in infrared wavelengths.
It is also the first image of the atmosphere made with data from the New Horizons Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument.
The image was captured by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015, when it was about 112,000 miles (180,000 kilometers) away.
The blue ring around the dwarf planet is caused by the sunlight scattering from haze particles common in Pluto's atmosphere. And the white patches around Pluto’s limb are the sunlight bouncing off more reflective or smoother areas on the planet's surface.
Scientists believed that the haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules, producing a complex mixture of hydrocarbons such as acetylene and ethylene.
These hydrocarbons accumulate into small particles – a fraction of a micrometer in size – which scatter sunlight to make the blue haze.
This new infrared image of Pluto's atmosphere when combined with earlier images made at shorter visible wavelengths, gives scientists new clues into the size distribution of the particles.