Friday, October 21, 2016

News From Pluto: Clouds on Pluto, Landslides on Charon

By the end of this week, all the data gathered by the New Horizons spacecraft during its July 2015 flyby of the Pluto system will have finished downloading to Earth and be in the hands of the science team. Bonnie Buratti, a science team co-investigator said they have gone from being able to look at the pretty pictures to doing the hard work required to study the data. During today’s press briefing from the Division of Planetary Sciences conference, the New Horizons team shared a few interesting and curious findings they’ve found in the data so far.

While the famous global view of Pluto appears to show a cloud-free dwarf planet, Principal investigator Alan Stern said the team has now take a closer look and found handful of potential clouds in images taken with New Horizons’ cameras.

“Clouds are common in the atmospheres of the solar system,” Stern said during the briefing, “ and a natural question was whether Pluto, with a nitrogen atmosphere, has any clouds.”

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