Their tall peaks reach the sky and the snow-capped mountains on earth are beautiful, glistening with snow in the sun. Other planets, such as Mars and Venus and some moons, also have mountains, but they lack the beautiful snow cover of the Earth’s mountains. A notable exception, however, was discovered by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015, when it succeeded in reaching the outer reaches of our solar system. I’m talking about Pluto’s snowcapped mountains!
Not only does Pluto have mountains, which was a little surprising given its small size, but Pluto’s mountains also have snow on its peaks. There is a significant difference between the mountains of Earth and Pluto. The “snow” or ice on Pluto contains static methane (CH4) instead of water ice crystals.
Meanwhile, the mountains of Pluto itself are composed of rock-hard water ice.
The new research was announced on October 13, 2020 by an international team of scientists led by researchers at the Center National de la Richeri Scientific (CNRS) in France.
The relevant peer-reviewed paper was published Nature Communications On the same day.
2021 lunar alend landers are here! Place your order before you go. Makes a great gift!
The ice on Pluto’s mountains – especially Chathulhu Makula (formerly known as Chathulhu Regio) – is part of a cycle reminiscent of Earth’s water cycle, but consolidates traces of methane in Pluto’s thin atmosphere instead of water vapor. Researchers used the climate model to find out how methane ice could be produced in Pluto’s non-Earth-like conditions. They discovered that Pluto’s mountain peaks were the only places High enough Methane so itude in the low world To be able to Solid from the atmosphere. From the paper:
Here we show that the bright snow seen in Chattulhu is mostly made up of CH4 rich ice. We then use Pluto’s statistical climate model to investigate the origin of their formation. Our simulations reproduce the accumulation of high CH altitude CH4 ice where snow-capped mountains are observed, especially on the shores and arrests of Pigafeta and Elcono Montes in eastern Cthulhu. They show that CH4 condensation is favored by stimulus-induced circulatory cells that seasonally enrich the atmosphere with that atmospheric methane at that alt altitude.
Overall, the formation of CH4 snow on the tops of Pluto’s mountains goes through a completely different process than the formation of the Snook Appad Mountains on Earth, according to our Mtdale. It is noteworthy that two phenomena and two materials that are very inconsistent can produce the same landscape, when viewed in the same resolution.
These findings also help solve another mystery as to why glaciers on Pluto, made of methane, have crazy ridges on them, while Earth’s glaciers, made of water ice, have smooth surfaces. As described in the paper:
Pluto is covered by numerous deposits of methane, either dissolved in nitrogen or as ice rich in methane. In the dark equatorial region of Cthulhu, bright methane-containing frost is found coating crater rims and walls as well as mountain tops, providing striking resemblance to terrestrial snowcapped mountain chains. However, the origin of these deposits remained a mystery. Here we report that it is made of ice rich in methane. We use high-resolution numerical simulations of Pluto’s climate to show that the processes it creates are likely to be completely different for high-itude altitude snowpack makers on Earth. Methane deposits may not result from adiabatic cooling in the air moving upwards like our planet, but the rotation-induced enrichment of aerated methane a few kilometers above Pluto’s plains that favors methane condensation on mountain peaks. This process could have shaped other methane reservoirs on Pluto and the blades of Tartarus dorsa could have helped explain the landscape.
Tangui Bertrand, lead author of the study at the NASA AIIMS Research Center, told CNN:
Pluto is covered by foreign-formed ices and its landscape resembles the polar caps on Earth (Greenland and Antarctica). New Horizons also discovered spectacular mountains on Pluto that were covered by bright deposits, similar to the snook .pd mountain chains found on Earth. Such a landscape was not seen anywhere else in the solar system. Does Pluto’s atmosphere behave like Earth’s? We discovered that a new and unique (in the solar system) atmospheric process created these icy mountains on Pluto.
On Earth, the temperature in the atmosphere decreases with the elevation. However, the opposite happens on Pluto. Its thin atmosphere is warmed by the sun and the temperature rises to higher levels as you go, allowing methane to condense on mountain tops. As Bertrand explains:
At its contact the air cools and flows down the slope. Pluto’s atmosphere contains more aerated methane at its warmer, higher altitudes, allowing it to freeze directly on mountain peaks high enough to satisfy the gas and reach the rich region. At low altitudes, the amount of aerated methane is low, and does not decrease.
This discovery teaches us that there are still many physical and dynamic processes in space that we do not know about, and that the climate may be very different from Earth’s (despite forming a similar landscape). It is important to study the bodies of Pluto and other planets because they are natural laboratories for exploring and investigating possible variations in the atmosphere (and geology and other planetary science) that give us a better perspective on our own climate.
An amazing example of how the snowcap cycle on Pluto was discovered Active This cold, distant dwarf planet really is. Pluto also has huge, smooth glaciers of nitrogen ice, such as the Sputnik Planum, a neck of methane ice, and the quaint “blade terrain” as high as a skyscraper with snow blades. There may also be cryovolcanos – ice volcanoes and submerged seas. This tiny world is surprisingly geographically active despite being so small and so far away from the sun. It’s even five moons!
However, his visit to Pluto was only a short flyover, New Horizon has already changed our knowledge of this small world, and its findings will keep scientists busy for decades to come.
Bottom line: Pluto has snow on the mountain tops like Earth, but these snow apes are made of frozen methane, not water ice. A new study shows how they form in such an Earth-like atmosphere.
Source: The equatorial mountains on Pluto are covered by methane frost as a result of a unique atmospheric process
By Eureka Alert!