NASA scientists have just made a major breakthrough in planetary research, after years examining the surface of Pluto.
Professor John Moores, in collaboration with researchers at NASA and Johns Hopkins University, has found huge skyscrapers made of solid ice on the surface of our solar system’s famous dwarf planet.
Scientists had believed these icy structures only existed on Earth, but this discovery has proven the original theory incorrect.
The structures can be seen with the naked eye on Planet Earth, particularly in the Atacama Desert in Chile, as pictured above.
But the 500-metre strongholds – also known in academic scientific circles as penitentes – on Pluto are hundreds of times bigger than the towers on our planet.
Pluto’s newly uncovered icy features – which are formed by erosion – were caught on camera in JUly 2015 when the New Horizons craft took images of the dwarf planet’s surface from the air.
At the time, scientists were puzzled by the inexplicable patterns. However, this new theory has cleared things up.
The lead professor in the research team, John Moores has released a blog about this ground-breaking theory via the Canadian York University’s YouTube channel.
The identification of the ridges of Tartarus Dorsa as penitentes suggests that the presence of an atmosphere is necessary for the formation of penitentes, which would explain why they have not previously been seen on other airless icy satellites or dwarf planets.
But exotic differences in the environment give rise to features with very different scales.
The discovery indicates that these icy features could also exist on other planets.
If that’s the case, it could suggest other planets in our solar system also have an atmosphere compatible with frozen water, perhaps giving way to the possibility of life beyond Planet Earth.