Friday, September 25, 2009

Planet Pluto Lower Atmosphere

The large telescope used by the astronomers has revealed the lower atmosphere of the farthest planet pluto. The scientists found unexpectedly large amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and also discovered that the atmosphere is hotter than the surface by about 40 degrees, although it still only reaches a frigid minus 180 degrees Celsius.

These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the presence of pure methane patches or of a methane-rich layer covering the dwarf planet's surface. Pluto, which is about a fifth the size of Earth, is composed primarily of rock and ice. As it is about 40 times further from the Sun than the Earth on average, it is a very cold world with a surface temperature of about minus 220 degrees Celsius!

It has been known since the 1980s that Pluto also has a tenuous atmosphere, which consists of a thin envelope of mostly nitrogen, with traces of methane and probably carbon monoxide. As Pluto moves away from the Sun, during its 248 year-long orbit, its atmosphere gradually freezes and falls to the ground. In periods when it is closer to the Sun as it is now, the temperature of Pluto's solid surface increases, causing the ice to sublimate into gas.With lots of methane in the atmosphere, it becomes clear why Pluto's atmosphere is so warm.


Keisha said...

I think they don't call it a planet anymore, because it's so small and distant... but I wish they did. :)