NASA – Is Pluto’s Atmosphere Collapsing?

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this sharper global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). That’s twice the resolution of the single-image view captured on July 13 and revealed at the approximate time of New Horizons’ July 14 closest approach.

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this sharper global view of Pluto. (The lower right edge of Pluto in this view currently lacks high-resolution color coverage.) The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). That’s twice the resolution of the single-image view captured on July 13 and revealed at the approximate time of New Horizons’ July 14 closest approach. Image – NASA

Five years ago NASA were baffled with Earth’s shrinking atmosphere

Large changes in the sun’s energy output may drive unexpectedly dramatic fluctuations in Earth’s outer atmosphere.

Results of a study published today link a recent, temporary shrinking of a high atmospheric layer with a sharp drop in the sun’s ultraviolet radiation levels.

The research, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., and the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU), indicates that the sun’s magnetic cycle, which produces differing numbers of sunspots over an approximately 11-year cycle, may vary more than previously thought.

New Horizons has only taken a snapshot in time so we are unlikely to know if the current low solar activity may be linked to Pluto’s shrunken atmosphere [my emphasis].

From previous observations, scientists assumed the pressure on Pluto’s surface would be about 15 microbars, but it turned out they were wrong, by quite a bit.

This REX occultation data says that the pressure on Pluto’s surface is just 7 microbars. It could be that the atmosphere is kind of collapsing, that the atmosphere, the gases that make up that atmosphere, are freezing and falling to the surface. If this is what’s happening, it’s possible that the collapse of Pluto’s atmosphere is imminent, or at least that most of the gas in the atmosphere will freeze and fall to the surface.

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