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Pluto's Heart: Like a Cosmic 'lava Lamp'


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Sputnik Planum, Pluto

Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission used state-of-the-art computer simulations to show that the surface of Plutos informally named Sputnik Planum is covered with churning ice "cells" that are geologically young and turning over due to a process called convection. The scene here, which is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) across, uses data from the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), gathered July 14, 2015.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Combining computer models with topographic and compositional data gathered by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft last summer, New Horizons team members have determined the depth of this layer of solid nitrogen ice within Pluto's distinctive "heart" feature—a large plain informally known as Sputnik Planum—and how fast that ice is flowing.

From NASA
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