International scientists spot Earth-like snow and ice formations called ‘Penitentes’ on Pluto
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International scientists spot Earth-like snow and ice formations called ‘Penitentes’ on Pluto

A group of international scientists, for the first time, detect the existence of earth-like snow and ice formation on the dwarf planet Pluto. The scientists, by merging a model akin to what meteorologists employ to predict climate reports with a computer reproduction of the physics of dispersing ices, have successfully discovered the solid evidence of the existence of snow and ice features on Pluto. The discovered ice and snow formation, up till now was believed to be exclusive to Earth, but its existence on Pluto has given the scientists a new insight into the Bladed topography of the planet.

The ice and snow formation is composed by corrosion, and is known as “penitents.” The feature is bowl-shaped depressions having blade-like spires in the region of the rim that go up several hundreds of feet. The recognition of these crinkles in Pluto’s informally titled area – Tartarus Dorsa is hinting towards the existence of an environment which is crucial for the formation of penitents.

On Earth, such ice and snow formations are only detected in the Andes over 13,120 feet, where the thickness of the air is low and the dew point is never over sub-zero. In such situation, the snow and ice don’t thaw out, but sublimates. As the unfilled depression starts getting into a form, an optimistic pointer ring is shaped, while on another hand, the radiation starts going downward and echoes between the walls of the spires. Air flow drops off, causing the inferior dew point and raising the intensity of sublimation and dissolving.

By analyzing the images of Pluto clicked by the New Horizons spaceship advocates a comparable set of conditions. In the images, the yielded penitentes are notable on the dwarf planet. On Pluto, however, the spires are found to be situated over 1,600 feet tall and divided by as many as three miles.

The research was the collaborative effect of the lead researcher John Moores of York University, Toronto, with the scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory along with the scientists of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The first-of-its-kind discovery has indicated that such snowy and icy features might also be present on other planets where ecological conditions are comparable to Pluto’s atmosphere.