Scientists have discovered how there was a mysterious ice «skyscrapers» on Pluto

© NASA/JHUAPL/SwRIМечи on the surface of PlutoScientists have discovered how there was a mysterious ice «skyscrapers» on Pluto© NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Unusual ice skyscrapers on the surface of Pluto, a sawtooth structure with a height of 3-5 kilometers, are the traces of the last ice age on the dwarf planet, according to a paper published in the journal Icarus.

«When we realized that these «skyscrapers» consist almost entirely of methane ice, we wonder why he turns into such a «needle» structure, and not just accumulate in the form of frozen blocks? It turned out that on Pluto there are variations of climate, and when the planet gets warmer, the ice will just evaporate into the air,» says Jeffrey Moore (Jeffrey Moore) from the Research center NASA Ames (USA).

The main object of public attention during the flyby of the New Horizons probe to Pluto was his vivid and well-marked heart – plain of the Satellite and the region tombo, named in honor of the discoverer of the dwarf planet. Next to it is another region that attracts the attention of scientists is not less than the «heart» of the so – called ridge of Tartarus, filled with weird mountain peaks.

In its form, if you look at the three dimensional structure of these peaks, they resemble a kind of «saw» or a set of swords or skyscrapers with a height of several hundred meters extended in the direction of the South and the North and remote from each other by 3-5 kilometers. These cosmic «needle» sits on top of an even larger formations of this kind, analogues to which, according to scientists, in our Solar system.

Initially, scientists had two hypotheses, how could these «skyscrapers» – they could appear or as a result of evaporation and condensation of methane ice, or the accumulation of clathrates of compounds of methane and water on the surface of Pluto.

Moore and his colleagues studied three-dimensional images obtained by the camera MVIC in the moment of rapprochement with Pluto, and realized that these «needles» appeared approximately in the same way as a so-called «penitent snow,» a mysterious ice structures in the Atacama desert and in other mountainous regions of Latin America, opened by Charles Darwin in 1839.

They represent the fields of the many ice pillars and snow pyramids that occur in dry mountainous areas in those days, when the Sun shines particularly strongly. In those cases, when the Sun shines on ice or snow at a steep angle, with the result that some areas receive more light and heat, and others a little less. As a result, the ice begins to evaporate in the «bright» areas», and «dark» – remains intact.

This leads to the formation of a kind of «pits», at first small in size, the walls of which serve as a kind of «well», which does not reflect light and heat back into the atmosphere, and keeps them. Thus the process of ice melting in the white parts starts to skyrocket, which leads to the formation of structures, like pillars and pyramids.

Something similar, according to the planetary scientists of NASA have happened on Pluto. In the distant past, the climate was colder than today, so the methane existing in the atmosphere of the dwarf planet in the form of gas began to condense and turn into ice, not only in lowlands but also on the tops of mountains.

Subsequently, the climate became warmer, and methane ice began to evaporate, forming needle-like structures, which grew up to 3-5 kilometers over millions of years after the «ice age». This, according to the researchers, indicates that the climate of Pluto is much more changeable and dynamic than was previously thought.