Comparison of snowcapped mountains in Cthulhu Macula on Pluto (left) with the Alps on Earth (right). Image via NASA/ Johns Hopkins APL/ SWRI/ Thomas Pesquet/ ESA/ EurekAlert!.
With their tall peaks reaching into the sky and and their snow glistening in the sun, snowcapped mountains on Earth are beautiful. Other planets, like Mars and Venus and even some moons, also have mountains, but they lack the scenic snow cover of earthly mountains. One notable exception, though, was discovered in 2015 by the New Horizons spacecraft, when it made its sweep through the outer reaches of our solar system. I’m talking about the snowcapped mountains of Pluto!
Not only does Pluto have mountains, which was a bit surprising given its small size, but Pluto’s mountains also have snow on their peaks. There is one significant difference, though, between the mountains of Earth and Pluto. The “snow” or frost on Pluto consists of frozen methane (CH4) instead of water ice crystals.
Meanwhile, Pluto’s mountains themselves are composed of rock-hard water ice.
The new research, by an international team of scientists led by researchers from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France, was announced on October 13, 2020.
The associated ...