March 2, 2021

Pluto’s atmosphere

Pin It’s atmosphere takes center stage in new photo


A new photo of Pluto’s atmosphere makes the invisible visible.

The new image, taken by NASA’s spacecraft in July, shows the blue ring of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere as it would appear in the infrared — a kind of light invisible to the human eye.

While the photo may not look quite as dramatic as some other images of Pluto taken by the far-flung probe, it’s worth its weight in scientific gold.

Scientists should be able to use images like this one to pick apart and understand exactly what the haze particles of Pluto’s atmosphere are made of.

The ring of blue seen in this image, which was taken when New Horizons was about 112,000 miles on July 14 is created by the light of the sun hitting the hazes in the atmosphere, reflecting light, NASA said.

At the moment, researchers think that the haze is created by sunlight hitting methane and other particles on Pluto.

By studying this image and others, researchers will hopefully be able to learn more about the sizes of the particles that compose the atmosphere, NASA said.

The Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array instrument used to capture this photo should also fill out the rest of Pluto’s ring of atmosphere when it sends back more data later, NASA said.

New Horizons can only beam back a relatively small amount of data at a time, so it’s taking the craft a bit over a year to send all of the information it collected during the flyby back to Earth.

New Horizons is now zooming ever-deeper into the — the group of icy objects in Pluto’s part of space beyond the orbit of Neptune — heading toward its next target, 1 billion miles from the dwarf planet.

The space probe should make it to its next destination, named 2014 MU69, by 2019, assuming NASA approves an extended mission for the craft.

IMAGE: Pluto’s atmosphere seen by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in infrared light. IMAGE: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

For more on this story go to:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind