Strange News And The UneXplained!

World News, Unexplained Phenomena, Natural Anomalies!

Pluto’s ice sheets are shifting

Posted by 3citynewswire on 02/06/2010

The pictures show icy frozen nitrogen on Pluto’s surface growing and shrinking, brightening in the north and darkening in the south. Astronomers say Pluto’s surface is changing more than the surfaces of other bodies in the solar system. That’s unexpected because a season lasts 120 years in some regions of Pluto.

“It’s a little bit of a surprise to see these changes happening so big and so fast,” said astronomer Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “This is unprecedented.” analysis also found that nitrogen ice was shifting in size and density in surprising ways. It’s horribly cold on Pluto with, paradoxically, the bright spots being the coldest at about -382 degrees Fahrenheit. Astronomers are still arguing about the temperatures of the warm dark spots, which Buie believes may be 30 degrees warmer than the darker areas.

From 1954 to 2000, Pluto didn’t change in color when it was photographed from Earth. But after that, it did. The red levels increased by 20 percent, maybe up to 30 percent, and stabilized from about 2000 to 2002, Buie said.

Buie said he can explain the redness, but not why it changed so dramatically and so recently. The planet has a lot of methane, which contains carbon and hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen gets stripped off by solar winds and other factors, leaving carbon-rich areas on the surface, which tend to be red and dark.

Part of the difficulty in figuring out what is going on with Pluto is that it takes the dwarf planet 248 years to circle the sun, so astronomers don’t know what conditions are like when it’s is farthest from the sun. The last time Pluto was at its farthest point was in 1870, which was decades before Pluto was discovered. Unlike Earth, Pluto’s four seasons aren’t equal lengths of time.

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