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Pluto's "Dark Side" Is Captured in Stunning Image by Astronomers

By: April Carson

The New Horizons team has published an image of Pluto's southern hemisphere, which was hidden by darkness during the spacecraft's close flyby. The researchers discovered a bright area on it that might be nitrogen or methane ice accumulation.

Researchers compiled and interpreted a photograph of Pluto's night side

In 2006, New Horizons was launched into space, and in 2015 it made a very close flyby of Pluto for the first time in history. This encounter generated photographs of both Pluto and its satellites. The station has now approached the Kuiper Belt object Arrocot for the first time, obtaining detailed images of it. The device is now on its way to the Kuiper Belt, a ring of small celestial bodies around the Solar System. "The team has also discovered that Pluto's 'dark side' is not actually dark but very bright."

Only the illuminated portion of Pluto was seen by New Horizons during its flyby, which occurred in July 2015. The station also captured photographs of Pluto's night side when it departed from it, but they were not nearly as revealing.

Tod Lauer of the NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory) arranged a group of researchers from a team led by him to present images of Pluto's heavenly body, which was lit only by Charon's scattered surface and therefore visible only in the dark. At the time of filming, Pluto's southern hemisphere was in darkness. He said: "This is a science that was not possible at all before."

The team confirmed the existence of dark areas on Pluto, which has been seen in several images from New Horizons since it was taken, but this new image shows them better than ever before because it is much larger and clearer.

The last image of Pluto's night side was created from 360 LORRI pictures of Pluto, as well as another 360 pictures taken with the same geometry but without Pluto. This allowed scientists to remove as many artifacts from the picture as possible, leaving only the features of Pluto's surface.


To the west, a dark crescent was seen where neither sunlight nor light from Charon had fallen, and a significant bright area that might be nitrogen or methane ice deposits. Scientists also discovered that at the time of the survey, the south polar region had a considerably lower albedo than the north polar region of planet Earth, which may be due to geologically recent redistribution of methane deposits.

On the left side, there is a mottled area which may be caused by subsurface geological features or cryovolcanoes. On the right side, the dark crescent shape is hypothesized to be an ocean of liquid water, with frozen chunks of fog within it.

Pluto's previous discoveries

During the approach to Pluto, New Horizons detected a one-of-a-kind phenomenon: a planetoid covering up the sun. This "eclipse" provided scientists with more accurate information on Pluto's atmosphere. It had previously been seen at altitudes of less than 270 kilometers, according to NASA specialists.

At least 1,600 kilometers above the surface, new findings have revealed Pluto's atmosphere for the first time. The Alice spectrograph revealed that the upper layers are mostly made of molecular nitrogen, whereas the lower ones contain minor amounts of methane and more complex hydrocarbons.

A nitrogen "tail" follows Pluto, according to New Horizons. The solar wind, made up of high-energy charged particles emitted by our Sun, continually "blows away" the planetoid's upper atmosphere, leaving behind a plume tens of thousands of kilometers long, which is made up of ionized nitrogen. This "tail" is shown in the map of Pluto's ultraviolet brightness, following New Horizons' closest approach.

What causes this? The scientists have no idea.

At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Maryland, Alan Stern said that Pluto continues to surprise us and has turned out to be among the most complex objects visited by a spacecraft.

According to a NASA spokesman, he added that the surface of Pluto is covered by an extremely thin atmosphere with a pressure 100 times smaller than what we have on Earth and it consists mainly of nitrogen, like our Earth's atmosphere.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav







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