Latest Pluto discoveries 'mind-blowing' say scientists

Latest Pluto discoveries 'mind-blowing' say scientists

New photos of Pluto released by Nasa reveal flows of nitrogen ice filling up craters, an atmosphere that could be on the verge of collapse, and a mysterious reddish haze extending 100 miles above the surface.

Nasa scientists on the historic New Horizons mission have declared the Pluto system a “scientific wonderland”.

“If you’re seeing a cardiologist, you may want to leave the room,” principal scientist Alan Stern said at the opening of a news conference at Nasa headquarters in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“There are some pretty mind-blowing discoveries.”

Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft, now 7.5 million miles beyond Pluto, has detected layers of haze stretching 100 miles into the atmosphere, much higher than anticipated. All this haze is believed to account for the dwarf planet’s reddish colour.

As for the ice flows, they appear to be relatively recent – no more than a few tens of millions of years, according to William McKinnon of Washington University in St Louis. That compares with the 4.5 billion-year age of Pluto and the rest of the solar system.