In a recent study on the former planet Pluto, the researchers have discovered dunes formation on the planet’s surface. After a closer analysis, the researchers confirmed that the planet possesses methane ice dunes, which is basically an attribute observed on the Earth.
For the formation of dunes, the atmosphere should be such that solid particles should be getting blown by a movement-making medium. This implies that the basics of dune formation are tiny bits of grains and a kind of force just like that of the wind. This force works by pushing the grain fragments into a particular shape. The researchers at the Plymouth University involved in the study of the images received from the New Horizons pointed out this peculiar phenomenon taking place on the surface of the alien planet.
The author of the study, Matt Telfer at the Plymouth University of the United Kingdom, said in a statement, “The best imagery prior to New Horizons was 12 pixels across for the whole dwarf planet.” Further, he added, “What we have now is evidence of a diverse, dynamic, and active geological surface. We see mountains, glaciers, and ice moving. Even despite the thin atmosphere, we see evidence of that atmosphere shaping the surface of that world just as it does on our own planet.”
This observation has taken the researchers by surprise as they had never imagined that the planet, having an atmosphere, which is near about a hundred thousand times thinner as compared to the atmosphere of the Earth could be robust enough for giving rise to dunes formation.
The images of the New Horizons feature mounds of methane resting on the huge glacier, which forms the region known as the Sputnik Planitia. These pale looking mounds of methane tend to expand tremendously at times ranging up to twelve miles and end up covering a region that is two times larger than the Utah Lake.
The wind force that is said to be carrying the icy sand particles into structures known as the dunes is regarded to be getting directed towards that glacial plain originating from the mountain ranges situated across the border of Pluto’s heart. The researchers were able to trace the path of the wind by observing the dark material ridges left by it on the Sputnik Planitia.
The ice reduces into gas probably by the process of sublimation occurring over the glacier. The grains of methane are then lifted by this gas into the thin atmosphere of the Pluto. These airborne grains are then carried easily by the winds blowing at the rate of near about twenty-four miles per hour.