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X-ray Emissions From Pluto Raise More Baffling Questions

First Posted: Sep 22, 2016 10:40 PM EDT
JULY 11: In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the dwarf planet Pluto (R) and Charon are shown July 11, 2015. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is nearing its July 14 flyby when it will close to a distance of about 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers). The 1,050-pound piano sized probe, which was launched January 19, 2006 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is traveling 30,800 mph as it approaches.
JULY 11: In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the dwarf planet Pluto (R) and Charon are shown July 11, 2015. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is nearing its July 14 flyby when it will close to a distance of about 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers). The 1,050-pound piano sized probe, which was launched January 19, 2006 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is traveling 30,800 mph as it approaches.
(Photo by NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via Getty Images)

Pluto was removed from the list of planets in the Solar Sytem before but was added again. Pluto was believed to be an icy planet before until several records of emission were discovered. The astronomers were shocked and investigated the Dwarf Planet.

"We've just detected, for the first time, X-rays coming from an object in our Kuiper Belt, and learned that Pluto is interacting with the solar wind in an unexpected and energetic fashion," said Carey Lisse, an astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

X-Rays Detected From The Dwarf Planet

From February 2014 up to August 2015, Chandra pointed four different regions where X-rays are emitted. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in Pluto suggests some activities in the Dwarf Planet and that is the release of X-ray from some parts of Pluto.

Astronomer Scott Wolk was doubtful with the suggestions of the scientists. Wolk even explained, "Before our observations, scientists thought it was highly unlikely that we'd detect X-rays from Pluto."

New Horizon scientists aim for the composition of the atmosphere in the Dwarf Planet. New Horizon carries an instrument to check and monitor Pluto which is named Solar Wind Around Pluto. Though it is a positive sign that Pluto is emitting X-rays, there isn't enough solar wind produced, considering the distance from the sun.

After Trial and Error, Astronomers Aimed To Gather More Data

Thanks to Chandra, which has been visiting Pluto and its moons, the emissions were recorded and data were sent to NASA. Though the energy is low, it is still considered as a release of radiation. Contradicting to the description before that Pluto was just made of ice.

Several theories are tested because Pluto is far from the Sun to produce X-rays. The astronomers are still into deep investigation and inquiries with this latest discovery. Lisse, the lead researcher, and his colleagues are trying to identify what other gases are present in the exosphere of Pluto. Thanks to SWAP, the gathering of data still goes on.

There are two things that the scientists are confident about: Pluto is not just an icy planet and gases are present on its surroundings. Still the question is, how does it emit X-rays?

For now, Pluto is still a mystery that needs to be solved and astronomers are still figuring out how the planet releases radiation.

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