In July last year, NASA’s interplanetary space probe New Horizons started transmitting data back to the Earth as it flies by the farthest known ‘planet’ of our Solar System.
The probe, which is 3 billion miles away from Earth, sends mind boggling discoveries about Pluto that defy scientists’ expectations. It was revealed that Pluto is continuously evolving. The New Horizons is expected to complete transmission of all the data about the mission before this year ends.
Alan Stern, NASA’s scientist who oversees the mission told the Los Angeles Times that the recent data from the New Horizons have provided interesting information about Pluto that no one has ever expected before. He said the entire scientific community was caught in surprise about the information and almost all of what they have learned so far was puzzling.
Although the New Horizons has only transmitted about 40 percent of the information it gathered, scientists from NASA were able to discover interesting things about Pluto. In fact, five papers have been published in the journal Science just this week about the data from the probe.
For nine months, the unmanned probe reached its closest approach to Pluto in July last year. With the probe’s high-tech equipment and ultra high definition cameras, the world, for the first time, saw interesting images of the darkest once known planet in the solar system.
Pluto has four moons, which was formed some four billion years ago. Scientists believe that Pluto’s system was formed as a result of a collision between two massive objects. Pluto is covered with four different kinds of ice, including methane, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and water, Quartz report. At least every 248 years, the thick ice that covers the planet warms up as the planet moves around the sun. But this molten ice freezes again in so many ways.
The New Horizons studied Pluto’s surface, atmosphere, satellites, and how it interacts with the rest of the solar system, the LA Times reports. The probe, the same size of a piano, has been doing this at a speed of 30,800 mph, it adds.