New high-resolution images captured by NASA’ New Horizons probe reveals the first close-up of the dwarf planet’s equator, a region with large ice mountains reaching up to 11,000ft (3,350 meters) above the surface.
These mountains were formed no more than 100 million years ago, relatively young in astronomical terms compared to the 4 billion-year age of the solar system, and it also suggests that this region, which is about 1% of Pluto’s surface, is may still geologically active today, NASA says.
This is one of the youngest surfaces we have ever seen in the solar system,
said Jeff Moore.
Now we have settled the fact that these very small planets can be very active after a long time and I think it is going to send a lot of geophysicists back to the drawing boards to try and understand how exactly you do that,
said Alan Stern.
This last finding has really piqued scientific curiosity because Pluto is not orbiting much larger bodies unlike the icy moons of gas giants so it cannot be heated by the immense gravitational pressures interactions which means that other process must keep it geologically active.
This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds,
Dr John Spencer said.
The photo also shows that the other kinds of ice that cover much of Pluto’ surface are made of methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
You can’t make mountains out of that stuff. It is just too soft,
Featured image: © NASA/JHU APL/SwRI.