The last planet in the chain of our solar system used to be Pluto. How far away it is and how much time it would take to reach there is not something that everyone knows. But in the pursuit of finding water, though frozen, scientists have found dunes of methane in frozen form on Pluto. As per the report published in the Journal of Science, it was stated that the further we explore, the distant we go, the layers of mysteries start revealing themselves in such an artistic way that the truth is not distinct from a myth.
Exploration and research suggested that Pluto had an environment like that of a dessert. The images sent by NASA’s New Horizons Mission which flew close to the mysterious planet in July 2015 revealed some secrets not known before.
The expedition took more than a decade to reach there even when flying at a speed of 58,536 km/h (36,373 mph). It did not stay there, and the images were gathered as it passed close to it. The plain called Sputnik Planitia was spotted by the researchers who appeared like dunes or mountains of ice that would be approximately 5km high. These dunes are situated at a distance of less than 1 km from each other and are made up of methane ice particles of the size of sand grains.
The report was written by Dr. Matt Telfer who is a physical geographer at the University of Plymouth. He mentioned to BBC that individual grains are not visible and thus can’t be adequately described, but the dunes’ density and other parameters can be studied. He added that the speed of winds and other things could help us build a physical model to deduce additional information.
Like sun has solar winds, Pluto too has wind generated from these mountains on neighboring moons, and there are chances of frozen material that gets converted directly into gas. These mountains may be composed of nitrogen or methane, and possibly a reservoir of methane also exists there.
The scientists plan to collect samples of the particles and learn how the temperature is regulated there. The gases flow into the atmosphere only because of temperature inflation. These missions would offer new insight into how we perceive Pluto and what exactly it is.
Another article by Prof Alexander Hayes, an astronomer at Cornell University in Ithaca, US also support this report. With this Pluto becomes a part of ESA Mission.