Space & Astronomy
Dunes of frozen methane discovered on Pluto
By T.K. Randall
June 1, 2018 · 7 comments
Pluto is home to some unexpected features. Image Credit: NASA
The enigmatic dwarf planet is home to a 'riot of processes' that continue to surprise researchers.
Pluto surprised everyone when New Horizons beamed back the first close-up photographs in 2015, revealing this distant, icy world to be covered in a wide array of unique and notable surface features.
The most recent of these to be identified from images and data returned by the probe is a field of dunes comprised of, not sand, but tiny grains of frozen methane.
This remarkable terrain is situated between Sputnik Planitia - a heart-shaped nitrogen glacier around the size of France - and Al Idrisi Montes - a mountain range comprised of frozen water.
"Pluto, even though it's so far away from Earth and so very cold, has a riot of processes we never expected to see," said planetary scientist Jani Radebaugh. "It is far more interesting than any of us dreamed, and tells us that these very distant bodies are well worth visiting."
In terms of texture, the dunes quite closely resemble those found in California's Death Valley.
"It's a little bit lower density than sand we're used to holding on the Earth," said Radebaugh. "So it would feel lighter in your hand, but it would still be granular and would kind of flow off of your hand, and your feet would kind of crunch them as you're walking along."
"It would just kind of feel a lot like you're on another sand dune on the Earth."
Source: The Guardian
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