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Space & Astronomy

Giant towers of ice discovered on Pluto

By T.K. Randall
January 14, 2017 · Comment icon 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 | Comments (7)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Parsec 6 years ago
What a fascinating find.  What a fascinating (dwarf) planet! 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Astra. 6 years ago
It certainly is a fascinating and interesting little's so full of surprises.
Comment icon #3 Posted by coolguy 6 years ago
Thats cool must be super cold there
Comment icon #4 Posted by Astra. 6 years ago
Yep - it's gets super duper cold...something like minus 387 degrees Fahrenheit  / or minus 233 degrees Celsius. So even your special, thermal waffle weaved long john's wont do you any good coolguy.
Comment icon #5 Posted by brlesq1 6 years ago
Planet of the ice giants?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Torviking 6 years ago
If you look closely athe bottom left third there is a Petried Pterodactyl about to attack a petrified puppy.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Torviking 6 years ago
If you look closely athe bottom left third there is a Petried Pterodactyl about to attack a petrified puppy. On the Argentine pic that is! Must post this streetcrap1 so he can tell SC Waring.

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