A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

Winter is coming on Pluto. And it is a winter, scientists say, unlike anything imaginable on Earth, a winter in which the dwarf planet’s entire atmosphere is expected to freeze out as frost, leaving it nearly as airless at the Moon. Not that Pluto has ever had a thick atmosphere. Its current surface pressure is … Continue reading A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

How frosty ice forms on Pluto’s mountains

Frosty deposits of methane ice on the mountaintops of Pluto form by a process very different from that by which snow falls on our planet, scientists say. It’s an important reminder that things we see on other worlds aren’t necessarily created the same way as those on Earth, says Tanguy Bertrand, a planetary scientist from … Continue reading How frosty ice forms on Pluto’s mountains

Five years since New Horizons saw Pluto

It’s exactly five years since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gave us a close-up view of Pluto, after a 10-year, 4.8-billion-kilometre journey. Moving to within 12,500 kilometres of the dwarf planet’s surface, it revealed an icy world of towering mountains, giant ice sheets, pits, scarps, valleys and terrains seen nowhere else in the Solar System. And … Continue reading Five years since New Horizons saw Pluto

Planet or not, Pluto started out hot

Pluto appears to have formed quickly and with such heat that from birth it had a large ocean beneath a layer of insulating ice, scientists say. It’s a finding that not only alters our understanding of the most famous dwarf planet, but also adds to the growing scientific consensus that once planets began forming, they … Continue reading Planet or not, Pluto started out hot