The cold, thin atmosphere of Pluto

nh-pluto-atmosphere

Pluto’s thin atmosphere is mainly nitrogen, and leaking away from the planet at a significant rate.  Scientists speculate that cryovolcanic activity is continually releasing enough new nitrogen vapor to keep the atmosphere from completely dissappearing.

Cryovolcanic.  That’s a term you don’t hear every day.  Significant areas of Pluto are covered in what looks like glaciers.  But they’re not made of ice — ice is too hard to flow at Pluto’s  -370F temperature.  Instead, the glaciers — which show hints of convection patterns  — are likely made of frozen nitrogen:

nh-pluto-terrain

Cryovolcanism.  Just had to say that one more time.  You can read more at the New Horizons mission web site.

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One Response to The cold, thin atmosphere of Pluto

  1. gonmrm says:

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