Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pluto Suffers From Anti-Greenhouse Effect

As if the twin-bodied system we know as Pluto is not shrouded in enough mystery, add this: It's actually colder than it should be considering its distance from the Sun.

Pluto moves in an orbit which brings it as close as 30 AU to the Sun and as far as 50. That temperature change is enough to change its fragile nitrogen-rich atmosphere to ice which falls to the surface. It is theorized when the planet moves closer to the Sun, some sunlight is absorbed during the conversion of nitrogen from ice back to a gas, accounting for a lower than expected surface temperature.
Of course this was only theory because we didn't really know what the surface temperature of Pluto actually was. Until now.

Recently scientists at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used the Submillimeter Array on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, to take temperature readings that seem to confirm the current hypothesis. They say the surface temperature is lower and they can prove it.

Seems to us it's just one more reason for New Horizons...

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