The mountains found on Pluto during the New Horizon spacecraft’s dwarf flyover in 2015 are covered with a blanket of methane ice, forming bright deposits like mountain chains from the ice found on Earth.
New research by an international team of scientists, including researchers NASAAnalysis of New Horizon Data from AIIMS Research Center in Silicon Valley, California PlutoAtmospheric atmosphere and surface using statistical simulations of Pluto’s atmosphere, to make it clear that these ice caps were created by a completely different process than Earth’s.
“It is particularly noteworthy to see that two very similar landscapes on Earth and Pluto can be created by two very opposite processes,” said Tangui Bertrand, a postdoctoral researcher at AIIMS and lead author on the paper detailing these results. Nature Communications. “Theoretically like things though NeptuneThe lunar Triton can do the same thing, nowhere in our solar system are there snow-capped mountains except Earth. ‘
On our planet, the atmospheric temperature decreases with itude elevation, largely due to the cooling transmitted by the expansion of the air at upward speeds. The colder atmosphere in turn cools the surface temperature. When a moist wind comes close to a mountain on Earth, its water vapor cools and condenses, forming clouds and then appearing on top of the mountain. But on Pluto, the opposite happens. As dwarfs increase, the atmosphere of the dwarf planet actually gets warmer because the more concentrated methane gas absorbs solar radiation. However, the atmosphere is too thin to affect the surface temperature, which remains constant. And Pluto is influenced by the winds that travel on the mountain slopes, unlike the winds above the earth.
To understand how the same landscape could originate from different materials and under different conditions, researchers developed a 3D model of Pluto’s climate at the Laboratory de Metarology in Paris, France, mimicking the atmosphere and surface over time. They found that Pluto’s atmosphere contained more hot, aerated methane at higher altitudes, which could cause the gas to saturate, condense, and then freeze directly without forming clouds on the mountain tops. At low alt altitudes, there is no methane frost as this aerated methane is low, making condensation impossible.
This process creates not only methane ice caps on the mountains of Pluto, but also similar features along the edge of its crater. The cycle also describes the mysterious blade terrain that can be found in the Tartarus Dorsa region around Pluto’s equator.
“Pluto is indeed one of the best natural laboratories in which we have to explore the physical and dynamic processes involved when there is a regular transition between solid and gas states in contact with the surface of the planets.” “From the New Horizon Flyby we know that amazing glacier landscapes have been revealed.”
Reference: “The equatorial mountains on Pluto are covered by methane frost as a result of a unique atmospheric process” Tangui Bertrand, France ç Is Forget, Bernard Smith, Oliver L. White and William m. By Grundy, 13 October October 2020, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-18845-3