New Horizons Mission Finds Possible Clouds On Pluto

By Rodney Rafols , Oct 19, 2016 06:26 AM EDT

For a long time Pluto has remained a mystery for most astronomers because of its distance. As space missions start to reach it, much information about it has come though there are still mysteries for scientists to ponder. A recent mission for instance has found what could possibly be clouds on Pluto.

The New Horizons mission has studied Pluto for almost 16 months, and it's due to wrap it up soon, according to The Guardian. Even though it would be moving on to a new mission, New Horizons did come up with something that astronomers will study. Clouds might possibly form on Pluto.

Principal researcher Alan Stern is said to have new evidence that Pluto does have clouds. NASA has seven possible cloud images which could mean that Pluto experiences condensation, though he also said that those aren't confirmed yet. The clouds are close to Pluto's surface, so it would still have to be confirmed if what was seen was cloud formation.

Pluto is mostly free from clouds, though there are possible formations at dusk and dawn, as Phys Org reports. Stern could only say that weather on Pluto is complex, which would mean it will take time for astronomers to study it. Pluto also has surface activity, though so far there are no signs of any landslides on it. Pluto's moon, Charon does show signs of landslides on its surface.

While New Horizons is ending its Pluto mission, there is already a likely destination after it. A Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) named 2014 MU69 could be its next target. It is 1.6 billion kilometers from Pluto and has been described to be as red as Pluto is. That mission will have to wait as New Horizons won't be expected to arrive there until January 1, 2019.

Stern also would not talk much about the possible destination of New Horizons. He said that he isn't making any predictions about it. What is certain is that the next target would be far from the Earth and people will learn much more what is beyond our solar system in better detail than ever before.

History is also being made as Europe prepares to have the ESA lander touch Mars soon.

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