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Pluto has ice mountains?

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Mountains on Pluto
youthful mountains near Pluto’s equator/NASA/JHU APL/SwRI

So says the New Horizons flyby:

A new close-up image of an equatorial region near the base of Pluto’s bright heart-shaped feature shows a mountain range with peaks jutting as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.

The mountains on Pluto likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters in a 4.56-billion-year-old solar system. This suggests the close-up region, which covers about one percent of Pluto’s surface, may still be geologically active today.

“This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system,” said Jeff Moore of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape.

“This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds,” says GGI deputy team leader John Spencer at SwRI.

As a CNN writer puts it,

It had been downgraded to a dwarf planet. It looked like a fuzzy blob in our best telescopes. And it was often referred to as just an icy orb. Even scientists working on the first mission to Pluto expected to find an old, pockmarked world.

Cheat sheet on dwarf planet Pluto.

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2 Replies to “Pluto has ice mountains?

  1. 1
    Mapou says:

    Congratulations to NASA engineers for an amazing and successful mission. It shows that humans are the superior species on planet Earth. But no sign of alien life on either Pluto or Charon? I’m a little disappointed. 🙂

    PS. By the way, does anybody know if NASA used Newtonian physics or Einsteinian physics on this mission?

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    By the way, did anyone notice the unusual number of women who took part in NASA’s New Horizons project? The mission operation manager (MOM) is a woman, which is a good thing, IMO. Somehow, calling a male manager MOM would seem awkward.

    Let’s hear it for our women engineers and scientists. Hurray!

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