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NASA Probe Spies Possible Polar Ice Cap On Pluto 60

astroengine writes: As NASA's New Horizons spacecraft rapidly approaches Pluto for its historic flyby in July, the dwarf planet is gradually sliding into focus. And in the latest series of observations beamed back from the fringes of the Kuiper belt, surface features are becoming evident including the stunning revelation that Pluto may possess a polar ice cap. "As we approach the Pluto system we are starting to see intriguing features such as a bright region near Pluto's visible pole, starting the great scientific adventure to understand this enigmatic celestial object," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington D.C. "As we get closer, the excitement is building in our quest to unravel the mysteries of Pluto using data from New Horizons."
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NASA Probe Spies Possible Polar Ice Cap On Pluto

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  • ...starting the great scientific adventure to understand this enigmatic dwarf celestial object, ...

  • A meteoroid scraped off the first "A" in the probe's "NASA" logo

  • OMG! yes, she's 13.
  • It's the Death Star's aiming laser. The damned thing has to be re-categorized yet again...

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @07:30PM (#49581565)

    "a bright region near Pluto's visible pole"

    But how do they know its ice? It could be frozen CO2, Nitrogen, methane, or some other gas.
    Pluto is pretty damn cold.

    If we are thining about terraforming Pluto, I propse we send the IAU there to warm it up with their hot air.

  • the dwarf planet

    You have some problem with little planets? What's next: midget planet?

    • Aye, ya wee celestail body ... there, we'v said it ... 'yer wee, ye'll always be wee ... too wee 'ta be called a planet, so you'll e'er be doomed to be called an almost planet, or an ex planet as it were.

      Sorry, but we ha' no time to listen to the lamentations of an ex planet, sorry Pluto, but 'yer too wee to listen to.

      Take tha' you wee ex planet ... why we have people wha' have bigger heads than 'ye!!

      • I was one of the "tough guys" of my school (some decades ago... in Greece... without any "anti-bullying" bullshit lectures yet...), and you just made me cry... watching you break little Pluto's soul - respect!
  • Most of Pluto is going to be ice. Is the cap solid Nitrogen?

  • Ice *cap*? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erice ( 13380 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @07:58PM (#49581721) Homepage

    I would expect the whole surface of the (dwarf) planet to be ice, much like all the other outer system objects too small to be gas giants. It would not necessarily be water ice and TFA did not suggest that it was water. In a region where methane and co2 freeze there are lots of options and water ice would not be favorite for a polar cap.

    Actually, the only information so far is: "There is a spot that is brighter than the rest. We don't know why."

    • Re:Ice *cap*? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @09:44PM (#49582311)

      Although there is a very substantial distance between the sun and Pluto, I'd imagine that the radiation from the Sun still causes the ices (in this case any sort of ice, not just water) to sublimate from the areas more exposed to solar radiation year-round. You'd get a cap in places where that radiation does not regularly reach, such as at the poles.

      I think you actually need specific conditions of atmosphere, or at least gravity, to actually maintain a snowball planet, as opposed to a very cold, but otherwise barren rock.

  • ... here [cliparts.co]

    Don't blame me. I Googled for Pluto not a planet.

  • ...Why such a cold object would have a polar icecap? Surely Pluto is cold enough all over to freeze anything.

    Unless it has an internal source of heat, like the Earth.

  • "...distance from Pluto decreased from about 69 million miles (93 million kilometers) to 64 million miles (104 million kilometers)"

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10