Space

Mountain lake of frozen nitrogen spotted on Pluto's surface

Mountain lake of frozen nitrog...
A frozen nitrogen lake set among Pluto's hills
A frozen nitrogen lake set among Pluto's hills
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A frozen nitrogen lake set among Pluto's hills
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A frozen nitrogen lake set among Pluto's hills
Nitrogen glaciers on the surface of Pluto
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Nitrogen glaciers on the surface of Pluto
Abundant water ice on the surface of Pluto is highlighted here
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Abundant water ice on the surface of Pluto is highlighted here

Former planet Pluto has turned out to be much more weird and wonderful than many would have guessed, as reflected in the multitude of data and images sent back by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft from its fly-by of the dwarf planet last July. The latest find from the many observations is what appears to be a lake of frozen liquid nitrogen nestled in Pluto's mountains.

"In addition to this possible former lake, we also see evidence of channels that may also have carried liquids in Pluto's past," said Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

The imaging system on New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) can capture details as small as around 430 feet (130 meters), leading NASA to estimate that the lake is about 20 miles (30 km) across at its widest point.

Scientists speculate that liquids may have flowed and pooled on Pluto's surface billions of years ago when atmospheric pressure and temperatures on the surface of the distant world were both higher than they are today.

New Horizons data has revealed Pluto to be surprisingly lively and in some ways, even an Earth-like place, with evidence of cryovolcanoes, mountain peaks capped with methane snow and "floating" hills, among other odd finds.

Source: NASA

3 comments
leotris
Isn't "a lake of frozen liquid nitrogen" a bit oxymoronic? Frozen lake of nitrogen.
Brad Wood
Thank you leotris! Exactly what I was going to say. There is a worse gaffe in the 1985 comedy Real Genius, a movie that has some nearly-reasonable science in evidence otherwise. When Chris Knight is stealing from the food and beverage machines by putting in discs of dry ice, Mitch comes in to the area and says Is that liquid nitrogen? No bozo, it's not liquid anything!
noteugene
Don't care what the scientist say, Pluto's a planet. Now that they are trying to steal it, it's my favorite planet. They speak as if it's a done deal. Not even close.