NASA Probe Images Of Polar Ice Caps On Pluto

Located three billion miles away from Earth, Pluto was once known as the Solar System’s ninth planet before being downgraded to the status of dwarf planet in 2006. 
Ever since it was first seen and documented in 1930, scientists have been eager to learn more about this elusive little world. Now, thanks to NASA’s New Horizons probe, researchers are able to learn more about its frozen surface in light of the discovery of what appears to be polar ice caps on Pluto.

The dwarf planet is more than just cold. In fact, it is estimated that the temperature can fall below minus 387 degrees Fahrenheit. Around July 14, 2015, the probe will make its closest flyby past Pluto, when it will be within 7,800 miles of the surface. The spacecraft has already taken many photos of the polar ice caps on Pluto, which are depicted as light and dark areas on the top and bottom of the dwarf planet.

Scientists believe these regions are made out of one of several substances that are known to exist on the dwarf planet – ammonia, nitrogen or methane, for example. The New Horizons probe, the first craft to travel closely to Pluto, is scheduled to retrieve data via spectrometers that will confirm or deny if the areas seen in the photos are indeed polar ice caps.

Probe Shows Rocks, Volcanoes, Along With Polar Ice Caps
 On Pluto

From the data and measurements collected, scientists believe that the dwarf planet is likely to be comprised of nearly 70 percent rock. Along with existence of the polar ice caps, collected images from New Horizon probe also reveal that Pluto may have volcanoes on its surface.

Since the New Horizons probe is much closer to Pluto, it is capable of shedding more light on the mysterious celestial body compared to the space telescope Hubble. The New Horizons craft has also traveled past every one of the planets in our Solar System, sending back photos and data for the researchers to study. These photos, taken with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), were beamed back to Earth for scientists to sharpen in order to obtain a better idea of the planets. Along with these images, there are also pictures of Pluto’s biggest moon, Charon, which takes about six and a half days to orbit the dwarf planet.

NASA Probe Images Of Polar Ice Caps On Pluto  - Clapway

Space is still a mysterious and foreign world to us. Although we cannot travel into the far depths of space to see the polar ice caps on Pluto just yet, we can experience flight, which is the first step: