The New Horizons probe captured images that suggest Pluto might still be developing.
NASA sent a probe to Pluto on a research mission. The New Horizons probe left Earth on January 19th 2006 and flew past the small planet 9 years later, on July 14th 2015. The probe has traveled 3 billion miles in order to discover more about the planet.
These new images show Pluto might still be growing. New Horizons captured images of the surface of the planet and its atmosphere. Even though analyzing the data will take years, scientists have already understood a bit more about Pluto.
They were surprised to find out that Pluto’s terrain is smooth and icy. This proves that the planet is not as old as it was previously believed. In fact, Pluto might still be forming shape. Scientists consider it one of the youngest planets in our Solar System.
The mountains of ice on the surface prove that there is water on Pluto. Scientists have believed that before but they were never able to prove it. Now they are certain that Pluto contains a great amount of water on the inside. They have also confirmed that the planet contains methane, which has previously been found on every planet studied by NASA.
It seems there is nitrogen gas in the atmosphere. Still, because the planet is so small, tons of nitrogen escape in space every hour.
Some data collected by the probe has proven scientists were wrong about the little planet. Further analysis of the images show Pluto is actually five times smaller than Earth. This means the planet is actually bigger than scientists have previously believed it to be.
Scientists hope that the information sent by New Horizons will shed more light on Pluto. Still, they are interested in specific information including its chemical makeup and details about the space around it. Meanwhile, the probe passed Pluto and is heading for other celestial bodies of rock and ice, giving researchers hope that they might find out more about how our Solar System was created.
Mission operation manager Alice Bowman believes that the great media coverage of this event will allow scientists to show people how interesting space is and how much work goes into space exploration.
After this mission, the United States becomes the first country to visit each planet of the Solar System.
Photo credits: Lightsinthedark.files.wordpress.com
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