New Horizons space probe revealed in 2015 that the mysterious Pluto is a frozen world with some interesting features: a heart-shaped geological formation which could mark the spot of an ancient ocean.
New Horizons also found that the surface temperature of the beloved dwarf planet is a lot lower than scientists have predicted. Estimates had placed the temperature at minus 280 degrees F, but the probe’s scientific instruments unveiled that the temperature is 330 degrees lower.
In 2013, researchers were shocked by a cold chill at the North Pole of 138,8 F. A human would survive just three minutes in such extreme conditions.
Researchers had expected Pluto to be colder, but they didn’t imagine how cold exactly. When the tiny planet reaches its father spot from the sun at about 3.67 billion miles, the situation gets even chillier. As a side note, Earth is 40 times closer to our host star.
A Mysterious World
In addition, because Pluto has a weak gravity, most of its atmosphere gets lost into space. And because of the atmosphere’s variations, researchers had big difficulties in estimating the temperature with Earth-bound instruments.
Scientists noted that the dwarf planet is not so distant from the sun to not be influenced by sunlight. Various research papers suggest that UV rays may break down some particles in Pluto’s atmosphere, creating a hazy coat around the planet. The haze of particles is one reason, Pluto is so cold.
The hazy coat is so dense that it can block all solar radiation from reaching the surface. But because scientists have no idea what the atmosphere is really made of there are more questions than answers. Researchers speculate that a type of smog-like layer forms in the dwarf planet’s upper atmosphere. The smog consists of haze particles and the gases that condense around those particles.
Image Source: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory via Wikimedia
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