Scientists have detected dunelike structures on Pluto’s surface, an unexpected find on a frozen planet that opens up possibilities about what Pluto was once like.
via NY Times:
Dunes on Pluto?
“We have detected vast fields of features that look like dunes,” said S. Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto on July 14. “Now we are being careful to say they look like dunes. They may or may not actually be dunes.”
That surprise is among several in a new batch of flyby photographs released by NASA on Thursday.
Dunes are undulating ridges of particles piled up by blowing wind, but the air of present-day Pluto is much too thin and weak to sculpt the fields of dunes, some of which stretch for kilometers. That could suggest that Pluto, a former planet, once possessed a much thicker atmosphere. If they are not dunes, then some force other than wind created them. “Their origin is under debate,” Dr. Stern said.