According to a new data collected by NASA New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto has layers of frozen water covering its surface, a lot more than anticipated by the astronomers previously. The data reveals a huge amount of water ice covering the upper layer of the dwarf planet. The planet has an orbital period of 248 Earth years and the winters here last for at least a decade or even more.
And irrespective of the season cycle, Pluto always has mountains of ice on its surface. NASA’S new map reveals that a large portion of its visible surface is submerged under frozen H2O.
Although the presence of H2O in the frozen layers is quite abundant, it also contains traces of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane. These gases hide the presence of water.
To detect the actual presence of water content in the ice, scientists used the observations derived by the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument in infrared light.
And these observation statistics were used to develop false-color maps and plot the water ice concentration on Pluto.
The investigators of NASA combined the two images obtained through the infrared imager of New Horizons and prepared a digital cube of data instead of a flat image. It made the detection of the exact ice water signatures as the data revealed cross sections of the area with water in an infrared spectrum.
More importantly, it also enabled the scientists to mute the signatures that do not contain water ice whereas those with H2O ice were enhanced resulting in a massive blue patch on the right surface of the planet.
Sputnik Planum is the left lobe of Pluto that was created due to a massive impact. It does not show any presence of water ice. However, it does not mean that the area is devoid of any ice presence. Rather the Sputnik Planum has gigantic glaciers, but all of them are composed of methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide ice.
A Northern bald spot is another interesting area on Pluto that is free from water ice; however, the scientists are not sure how it was formed.