Friday, March 18, 2016

a bite-mark shaped feature on the surface of Pluto

Images from the New Horizons spacecraft show a bite-mark shaped feature on the surface of Pluto. Scientists think that the feature is caused by the sublimation of methane ice, causing cliffs to erode and leaving a flat plain in their place. The images were captured just prior to New Horizon’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14th, 2015.

In the image above, which is of Pluto’s western hemisphere, three main features are shown. The first is Vega Terra, which as a raised plateau area. The second is the Piri Planitia, which is a flatter and lower area of plains. Piri Planitia shows an absence of craters, meaning it is geologically younger. Dividing Terra and Planitia are the Piri Rupes, the cliffs which have the bite-mark shaped feature that caught the interest of scientist.

The colored image on the right shows methane-rich areas in purple. Scientists think that as the methane ice of Piri Rupes is sublimated away into the atmosphere, the cliffs are removed and the flat plains of Piri Planitia take their place. The image also shows some methane mesas which have not sublimated away yet.

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