NASA has recently revealed there’s a giant snail-like object slithering on Pluto’s surface. The amusing pictures were sent to Earth in July last year by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard the New Horizons, the first ever to reach the icy dwarf planet.
NASA experts believe the rare object is a “dirty block of water ice”, which seems to be slithering probably because it’s currently floating in a dense region filled with solid nitrogen.
The image featuring the mysterious object also shows many pits on Pluto’s surface. According to NASA scientists, there’s a possibility that the process of sublimation caused the formation of those pits. Sublimation happens when there’s a direct transformation of a substance from the solid to the gaseous state.
William McKinnon, who is New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team deputy lead from Washington University, describes the phenomenon “more like a tree bark or dragon scales than geology”. He said the discovery was a “unique and perplexing landscape”.
NASA’s latest pictures revealed new information of the Sputnik Planum, which is the icy plain located on the western half of Pluto. The dwarf planet’s “modest internal heat” is thought to be warming large globules of solid nitrogen before rising up to the surface, cooling and then sinking back down again. McKinnon compares this part of Pluto with a lava lamp, one that is as wide as and deeper than the Hudson Bay.
Cells or polygons 10 to 25 miles wide separate the surface of this icy region. NASA says the cells, when observed at low sun angles, appear to have ridged margins and centers that are a little elevated, with an estimated of 100 yards of total height differences. The cells create a rather odd pattern that NASA experts say is produced by the slow heat transfer that comes from the surface of Sputnik Planum.
Moreover, NASA also unveiled a new composite picture of the Pluto’s Viking Terra region that features dark spots, which seem to be aggregations of red tholin, soot matter produced by reactions containing nitrogen and methane. Likely resulting from methane ice, there also are bright and light rims of the many craters. Experts say the red material probably has particles that ride with the ice that’s underneath the surface. Another possibility is that Pluto’s winds are blowing these particles away.
Source: Tech Times