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The floating mountains and other oddities of Pluto.
Five characteristics of the dwarf planet that are creating hardships scientists.
A high resolution image of Pluto and increased color taken by the New Horizons probe in July.
Satellites that rotate like tops, floating mountains, volcanoes spewing ice: that Pluto was a bizarre world than previously thought has been evident ever since, the New Horizons spacecraft flew over the dwarf planet at the edge of our Solar System.
At the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences, scientists of the mission presented the first comprehensive report on the observations made thanks to the spacecraft. The result, recaps Alan Stern, head of the “investigators” of the mission, is that “The Pluto system leaves us baffled.
We deserve full marks for exploration, but a clear failure for our predictive capabilities.” Two craters near the south pole of Pluto might be calderas of ice volcanoes or cryo volcanoes. Sit on top of two large mountains, said Bishop Wright and Piccard Mons, each over 3,000 meters high and wide at least a hundred kilometers in size and shape reminiscent of the shield volcanoes of Hawaii.
Only instead of boiling lava, volcanoes erupting Pluto’s nitrogen ice, carbon dioxide and possibly muddy water extracted from an ocean below. More than mountains, those of Pluto are a sort of iceberg. The Plutonian mountains, which in some parts of the planet reach dimensions equal to the Rockies, are made of water ice and probably “float” on a “sea” of nitrogen and carbon dioxide ice, denser.
Perhaps the most massive mountains are fluctuating. Some areas of Pluto’s surface is incredibly smooth, like Sputnik Planum; others are “pitted” or have a look “squamous”, like the skin of an alien snake. Others are crossed by enormous fractures, such as Virgil Fossa, west of Sputnik. These large cracks could be due to the expansion and raising of the dwarf planet’s crust, in turn due to the presence – which scientists believe likely – an ocean of underground water. Icing and slowly increasing in volume, that ocean could push on the crust and then produce those huge cracks. © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED