New Horizons has sent a new batch of pictures to Earth, and it appears Pluto has some mysterious halo craters filled with methane ice. The incredible spacecraft from NASA is sending those images from the astounding distance of 186 million miles from Pluto, but the pictures are as clear as it can get.
The latest discovery from the icy world consists of its craters shaped as halos, which seem to shine in contrast with the rest of the dark surface of the planet. These scattered craters are situated in the Vega Terra region. It would seem the halo-like forms are created by methane ice, which lines the ridges and the walls of the craters. This discovery is only the latest in a series of mysteries surrounding Pluto.
According to a press release from NASA,
“Exactly why the bright methane ice settles on these crater rims and walls is a mystery; also puzzling is why this same effect doesn’t occur broadly across Pluto.”
The team behind New Horizons has already posted a series of these images of halos on the official website of the space agency. The black-and -white pictures shows the craters as they appeared last summer when the spacecraft flew by Pluto. The largest crater that was spotted measured about thirty miles in width. Because the bright methane ice is resting on the darker surface, it creates a sort of glow to the halos.
Another image coming from the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array of New Horizons displays colors of iridescent blue and purple. Blue stands for the water ice located in between and inside the craters while purple represents methane ice.
It will take some time before scientists will find why methane ice is present on the ridges and walls of the craters. However, this is not the only type of rimming present on Pluto. Last month in March, they discovered mountains with snow caps in the Cthulhu region, which is made from methane tholins. While this has been determined as snow on the planet, it is surely much different from the snow we are accustomed to here on Earth.
On Pluto, methane has condensed into ice, but on our planet, it comes as gas and a resourceful source of fuel. This happens because of the difference in temperatures between the two planets.
Image Source: Wikipedia