The distant and cold Pluto for several decades after its discovery seemed a kind of incomprehensible boundary separating the solar system from the vast universe. When in May 2015, NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary station was in its orbit, for the first time in human history, the device managed to take unique pictures of the surface of a dwarf planet with an unusual formation in the shape of a heart in one of the hemispheres. An analysis of the obtained images then showed that the region that became instantly famous consists of frozen nitrogen, which has settled on the surface of Pluto due to the low temperatures. New studies of unique formation show that the frozen nitrogen of the “heart” of a dwarf planet can be a source of a unique natural phenomenon not previously observed at other objects in the solar system.
What is on Pluto?
According to an article published on newatlas.com, the famous heart-shaped plane of Pluto is able to create special winds in the extremely thin atmosphere of a dwarf planet, which lead to extensive discoloration on its bright surface. During the study, the information collected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its passage in the vicinity of Pluto in 2015 was used.
The education of Tombo Regio, which is at the center of a new study, instantly became famous after the publication of the first images of New Horizon due to its unusual shape resembling a huge cartoon heart. Upon closer examination, it turned out that the huge hollow that forms the left half of the “heart” is nothing but a real geological miracle.
During the analysis of the unique alien region, it turned out that the ice plane is relatively smooth and almost without craters. A similar phenomenon can be explained by convection, when warmer liquid nitrogen rises from the depths of Pluto and hardens in the middle of small cells located on the surface of the region. Research using advanced computer modeling has provided a deeper understanding of how this unusual landscape interacts with its surroundings. So, according to planetary astronomers behind one of the new studies, a thin layer of surface nitrogen evaporates from Pluto’s “heart” every day, and then it drops and settles again in the form of ice.
A unique natural phenomenon can affect the climate of a dwarf planet. Scientists have found that gaseous nitrogen, which gradually disappears from the ice sheets in the north, later moves south and settles, causing the appearance of a strong west wind.
The researchers also found that a number of atmospheric currents described in the modeling can explain the differences in the composition and color of ice located in the west of the “heart-shaped” region. During the prevalence of westerly winds on Pluto, heat from the atmosphere is gradually transferred with them, at the same time making contact with the icy surface of the dwarf planet and causing it to become less reflective. Researchers compare this natural phenomenon with the Earth’s ocean, which, like Pluto’s “heart”, has a huge impact on the formation of the inner climate of a miniature planet.