Pluto Ice Cap Formation Is Different Form Planet Earth

Pluto: Relation to Methane Gas

New research conducted by an international team of scientists has been published by NASA which included some of the researchers from NASA’s Ames Research Center. In 2015 during a survey on Pluto, researchers analyzed data that was captured by the New Horizon Spacecraft flying close to Pluto.

Although it was quite clear to the researchers that the Pluto was covered by a blanket of methane ice, which showed similarity with the snow-capped mountains found on Earth as it created bright deposits.

Pluto Ice Cap Formation Is Different Form Planet Earth
Pluto as seen from data taken by New Horizon’s flyby in 2015 of the dwarf planet, with a close-up view of the Pigafetta Montes mountain range. The colorization on the right indicates the concentrations of methane ice, with the highest concentrations at higher elevations in red, decreasing downslope to the lowest concentrations in blue.

Earth Differs from Pluto

New research is conducted on the Pluto’s atmosphere and its surface by the international team by analyzing the New Horizon data. The research on Pluto’s climate is being done by performing numerical simulations on it that will help understand the ice caps created using an entirely different process that is found by Earth.

It was found particularly that the same landscape on two different planets Earth and Pluto are formed by two different processes according to the lead author on the paper, Tanguy Bertrand.

Pluto: Only Other Planet than Earth to have IceCaps

And there are no such findings that other than Earth in Solar System, there is no planet that has ice capped mountains according to the scientists. Due to cooling induced by the expansion of air in an upward motion, the atmospheric temperature on Earth is decreased.

The water vapor cools and condenses to form clouds as the moist wind approaches the mountains on our planet which turns into the snow we see on mountaintops.

Process of Formation Different

However, the process is a little different and opposite from our planet on Pluto. The reason behind the formation of mountains being that methane is more concentrated in the upper atmosphere and also absorbs solar radiation leading to a warmer atmosphere as there is an increase in altitude.

The surface temperature cannot be changed on the planet as its atmosphere is pretty thin leading to a constant temperature. The winds flow upwards in Earth across mountains but it is not similar in this planet as the motion of wind is downwards.

Use of Simulations

A 3D model was developed by researchers of the climate to understand what’s happening on this planet, at the Laboratoire de Météorologie in Paris, France for simulation purposes of the atmosphere over time.

The atmosphere of Pluto is warmer which will lead to more gaseous methane because with the higher altitudes, the gas starts saturating, condensing, and freezes directly without any cloud formation. Condensation cannot happen at a lower elevation as the methane frost cannot take place due to less gaseous methane.


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