Tags: icebergs | pluto | floating | frozen | nitrogen

'Icebergs' on Pluto May Be Floating on Frozen Nitrogen

Image: 'Icebergs' on Pluto May Be Floating on Frozen Nitrogen

Sputnik Planum plains meet mountains on Pluto. (NASA)

By    |   Friday, 05 Feb 2016 09:59 AM

"Icebergs" on Pluto may be floating on frozen nitrogen, NASA researchers theorized after examining the latest photos and information from the New Horizon mission.

The New Horizon spacecraft made history last July during its flyby of Pluto, giving researchers their first close-up views of the dwarf planet at the edge of the solar system, noted The Guardian, and scientists have said the spacecraft has sent only a small amount so far of the data recorded during its Pluto encounter.

In some of the latest images, NASA reported that it appears that nitrogen ice on the planet is carrying hills that could be fragment of water ice from its uplands. The hills are one to several miles across and are located in a region called Sputnik Planum.

New Horizon astronomer Alex Parker tweeted an image of the Pluto surface Thursday, describing the hills as "city-sized icebergs."


"They are yet another example of Pluto's fascinating and abundant geological activity," NASA said on its website. "Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth's Arctic Ocean. The hills are likely fragments of the rugged uplands that have broken away and are being carried by the nitrogen glaciers into Sputnik Planum."

A large collection of these floating hills, or icebergs, appear in the northern portion of the image NASA researchers examined.

Researchers think, according to The Guardian, that liquid nitrogen could be flowing under the plains.

"This part of Pluto is acting like a lava lamp," said William McKinnon, deputy lead of the New Horizons geology and geophysics team. "If you can imagine a lava lamp as wide as, and even deeper than, the Hudson Bay."

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"Icebergs" on Pluto may be floating on frozen nitrogen, NASA researchers theorized after examining the latest photos and information from the New Horizon mission.
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2016-59-05
Friday, 05 Feb 2016 09:59 AM
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