Space & Astronomy
Giant towers of ice discovered on Pluto
By T.K. Randall
January 14, 2017 · 7 comments
Penitentes photographed in Argentina. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Sastognuti
The discovery marks the first time this phenomenon has been observed anywhere other than on the Earth.
Identified in photographs taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft when it flew past the dwarf planet back in 2015, these huge towers of ice, which measure up to 500 meters in height, are situated within Pluto's Tartarus Dorsa region.
Despite their alien appearance however these ice structures, which are called penitentes, can actually be found on the Earth as well (albeit smaller) and are named after the fact that they resemble a large congregation of people kneeling together in prayer.
They are found mainly in high-altitude regions such as the Atacama Desert in Chile.
"The identification of the ridges of Tartarus Dorsa as penitentes suggests that the presence of an atmosphere is necessary for the formation of penitentes, which would explain why they have not previously been seen on other airless icy satellites or dwarf planets," said engineer John Moores.
"But exotic differences in the environment give rise to features with very different scales."
Source: Science Alert
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