• News
  • Science

After Earth And Mars, Pluto Shows The Presence Of Dune Formation

After Earth And Mars, Pluto Shows The Presence Of Dune Formation

Now, a new study suggests that these formations are actually dunes made out of methane "sand", which is striking considering the dwarf planet's extremely thin atmosphere.

The new findings from scientists working on NASA's New Horizons mission and ESA's Rosetta spacecraft are another twist in the tale of this distant body, once called a planet, then demoted to dwarf planet, and now being dubbed by some a "supercomet". "This is one of the windiest spots on Pluto", Telfer said, "and the winds are in exactly the right direction".

"We have been focusing on what's close to us, but there's a wealth of information in the distant reaches of the solar system too", said Dr. Jani Radebaugh, Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at Brigham Young University. This lower surface pressure of the Pluto's atmosphere enables the solid methane grains to mobilize in the atmosphere and become airborne.

Launched in 2006, New Horizons was the first spacecraft ever to visit Pluto, passing within 7,770 miles (12,500 kilometers).

Pluto got taken off the list of the solar system's planets a few years ago, but that does not make it any less of an interesting body for astronomers to study. In 2014 and 2015 ESA's Rosetta followed the comet around the Sun and witnessed active jets of material flying from its surface. The recent study of results from New Horizons indicates that there is a field of dunes at the edge of Pluto's largest plain, Sputnik Planitia. The driving force of this process may be the heating of the atmosphere by the Sun, which raises the temperature above minus 230 degrees Celsius, that is the freezing point of nitrogen.

Modeling by the team shows that Pluto's moderate winds (which can reach between 19 and 25 miles per hour, or 30-40 kmh) can create these dunes once the grains are airborne.

Researchers said the dunes appear to be made mostly of icy specks of methane the size of sand, with some frozen nitrogen likely mixed in. According to Eric Parteli, such dunes formation on the Earth requires sand and stronger winds.

'So it would feel lighter in your hand, but it would still be granular and would kind of flow off of your hand, and your feet would kind of crunch them as you're walking along.

While the mysterious dunes on Pluto may look like sand dunes, they are really formed out of tiny particles of methane.

"'Much work is left to do to understand dunes on Pluto", wrote Cornell University's Alexander Hayes wrote in a companion article. This section of the plateau is about 47 miles (75 kilometers) wide and meets up with the Al-Idrisi Montes mountain range. Sastrugi - parallel wave-like ridges caused by winds on a hard snow surface; barchan - crescent mounds that tend to be wider than they are long; and seif - linear dunes with two slip faces, are just three of the very different types of dune that are found on Earth.

The team has yet to determine the height of the dunes; Mr Telfer guesses they're at least tens of metres tall. They believe that these will reveal the role of wind on Pluto's geology. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute.

Leave Your Comment

Leave Your Comment

Latest News

Breaking News


Melania Trump won't travel to G7, N.Korea summits

But Melania will not make the trip to Quebec on Friday, where President Trump is expected to get grief for his new tariff policy. Paolo Zampolli, a longtime pal of Melania's, told the Associated Press she "wanted to spend some quality time with her family".

Driver Who Killed 4-Year-Old in 1968 Suffers Similar Fate

Police received a tip-off that Parkhurst, then 18 years old, had apparently crashed a Buick into a pole that same night. Mr Parkhurst was never charged in the hit-and-run death that killed Carolee Ashby in NY on Halloween night in 1968.

Iran slams terrorist attack in Kabul

"There was panic gathering after the explosion", one security offical told Reuters, saying the death toll could rise. The Trump administration has sent additional troops to try to change the course of America's longest war.

Novak Djokovic comes through Roberto Bautista Agut test at Roland Garros

When he gained control early in the second, a third successive straight-sets victory in the French capital looked on the cards. Like Djokovic, Alexander Zverev cleared a stern test yesterday. (19) Kei Nishikori bt. (14) Daria Kasatkina bt.

Lava traps Hawaiians, evacuations expand near active volcano

Meanwhile, natural disaster activity at the summit has been low after the explosive eruption yesterday, but is slowly increasing. Residents in Hawaii's Kapoho area were told to evacuate by Friday afternoon or face being arrested, CNN reported .

Sofia Richie Reportedly Dropped Scott Disick's Ass After He Cheated On Her

Meanwhile, another insider said that 'she could not stand for being cheated on and being in such a toxic relationship'. Earlier this week, TMZ reported that Disick had attended Kanye West's album release party in Wyoming , without Richie.

Apple's WWDC 2018 Keynote: What's Next for the iPhone, iPad and Mac

Parents can also use this system to monitor and remotely place limits on how their children use their own devices. We're just a few minutes into WWDC 2018 , and Apple has already covered the biggest announcement of all: iOS 12 .

Manuel Neuer returns for Germany

Germany plays Saudi Arabia in its last warmup game Friday before starting its World Cup title defense against Mexico on June 17 . And the game was turned on its head when Alessandro Schopf drilled home Stefan Lainer's clever cut-back in the 69th-minute.

Pilot Whale With 80 Plastic Bags In Stomach Dies In Thailand

A team of veterinarians and volunteers spent about five days trying to treat the sick short-fin pilot whale. The small male pilot whale had been discovered ailing and unable to swim in the Na Thap Canal last Monday.

Apple TV gets Dolby Atmos support and more

The only provider Apple has announced for zero sign-on so far is Charter Spectrum, but it says more will be added in the future. Dolby Atmos will debut on Apple TV 4K this fall, and the films and TV shows that utilize it won't cost any more than usual.