According to scientists, a strange transformation can be seen in Pluto’s atmosphere. Pluto lies over 3 billion miles away from Earth in the Kuiper Belt. With the star blinking Pluto, the team of researchers was able to make observations of the planet and the atmosphere. The astronomers found that the planet’s atmosphere was beginning to vanish. The scientists at Southwest Research Institute carried out the research.
In both US and Mexico, by using telescopes at multiple sites, it was observed by the team that the planet and the thin atmosphere are primarily made of nitrogen. The atmosphere is supported by the vapor pressure of ices on the surface. So if ice warms up on Pluto, it can dramatically alter the density of its atmosphere.
The surface temperature of Pluto is going down as the planet is moving away from the sun. With the recent observations, the researchers found evidence showing that the planet’s atmosphere is refreezing back onto its surface; it gets colder and colder. It is very far from the sun. Until 2018, the surface pressure and atmospheric density of the planet continued to rise. When the planet was closed to the sun, it had residual heat. But the inertia is starting to wear off, and the planet is getting colder and more, and more of its atmosphere will freeze back onto its surface and disappear.
The sunlight is more extreme at noon, but the sand keeps soaking up the heat all throughout the afternoon. This is the main reason why late afternoon is the hottest. Pluto’s continued persistence suggests that nitrogen ice reservoirs on the surface were kept warm by stored heat under the surface. As per new data, they have started to cool.
As the planet moved in front of the star, the researchers watched the star fade and then came back into view once the planet had passed. Using the rate that the star came in and out of sight, the researchers were able to determine the atmosphere’s density. The transition lasted only for 2 minutes. This method relies on occultation, which happens when another passing hides one cosmic object in front of it. In the world of astronomy, studying this technique is very old. Since 1988 the researchers have used this technique to study Pluto.
In the middle of the path of the planet’s shadow, the researchers found a central flash, and this happened when the planet passed in front of the star. The light curve was changed by the flash caused by the planet’s atmosphere refracting light into the center of the shadow, in a Pluto occultation. The central flash seen was the strongest in 2018 that ever has been seen. The central flash gives the researchers very accurate knowledge of Pluto’s shadow path on the Earth.
Brief background –
From eight countries, an international collaboration since 1988 has been studying the planet’s atmosphere. The scientists used a ground-based telescope. The data from the New Horizon Spacecraft in 2015 was compared with the data of the international collaboration of scientists. It was discovered that Pluto was moving away from the sun and was getting colder. The planet’s nitrogen was also refreezing to the surface.