New data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal that dwarf planet Pluto is home to blue skies and water ice.
New Horizons reached Pluto on July 14, 2015 after a journey that lasted nearly a decade. The information gathered during the spacecraft’s flyby is still arriving and being analyzed by scientists. On Thursday, October 8, NASA announced that photos of the atmospheric haze around Pluto reveal that this haze is blue in color.
“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It’s gorgeous,” says New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.
The New Horizon’s Ralph spectral composition mapper instrument also detected “numerous small, exposed regions of water ice on Pluto.”
Initial data from New Horizons suggests the possibility of a subsurface ocean on Pluto. UK physicist Brian Cox explains that this means, “if our understanding of life on Earth is even slightly correct, that you could have living things there.”
With the new information suggesting blue skies and widespread water ice, Pluto is rapidly becoming an astrobiological world of interest.