by Staff Writers
Laurel MD (SPX) Mar 28, 2016
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when - thanks to much higher pressure in Pluto's atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface - liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.
"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, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado-principal investigator of New Horizons and lead author of a scientific paper on the topic submitted to the journal Icarus.
This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum.
Captured by the New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, the image shows details as small as about 430 feet (130 meters). At its widest point the possible lake appears to be about 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.
Members of NASA's New Horizons mission team will present nearly 40 scientific reports on the Pluto system this week during the 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference near Houston. The scientists will discuss results included in the March 18 issue of the journal Science, as well as results gathered from analyses of new data since the Science papers were submitted.
"The New Horizons team has been inundated with high-quality data beaming back from our spacecraft, now out in the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
"The findings we report this week at LPSC cover every aspect of the Pluto system, from its surface and atmosphere, to its origin and the nature and origin of its satellites. We're excited to share these many results."
Visit here for a complete set of science presentations from this recent briefing.
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