Pluto Has A 'heartbeat' Which Controls The Planet's Wind-flow, Reveals New Research

Science

In yet another major revelation from 'dwarf' planet of Pluto, a new study published this week has stated that Pluto's frozen nitrogen heart may 'cause winds'

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
Pluto

In yet another major revelation from the demoted 'dwarf' planet of Pluto, a new study published this week has stated that Pluto's frozen nitrogen heart may 'cause winds', as per international reports. The study published in the journal - Planets states that the 'heart' which is a heartshaped landscape witnessed on Pluto, is surrounded by nitrogen which continuously vaporises in day-time and freezes at night. Researchers call it the 'heartbeat', controlling the flow of nitrogen winds around Pluto.

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Pluto's 'heartbeat' controls nitrogen winds

Explaining the heartbeat, NASA Astrophysicist Tanguy Bertrand - lead author, said, "Before New Horizons (spacecraft), everyone thought Pluto was going to be a netball -- completely flat, almost no diversity. It has a lot of different landscapes and we are trying to understand what's going on there. The 'heartbeat' highlights the fact that Pluto's atmosphere and winds -- even if the density of the atmosphere is very low -- can impact the surface."

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How does the heartbeat affect winds?

Recently, researchers have discovered that nitrogen winds move in the opposite direction of the planet's rotation. As per reports, researchers Pluto's western winds are caused by the vaporizing of the nitrogen ice to the north and the formation of ice in the south. Moreover, the western winds which occur about 2.5 miles above the surface, create wind patterns which get trapped in the heart, strengthening before passing over the region. Researchers also reveal that if the winds moved in a different direction, Pluto may appear unrecognizable, "If you remove the heart of Pluto -- you won't have the same circulation."

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Pluto's Earth-like qualities

Meanwhile, in 2018, a new study published in Science revealed that the dwarf planet has dunes. These dunes are not like sand dunes on Earth but are made from solid methane ice grains. Dunes are rare in other planets in our solar system with only Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn's moon Titan, and Comet 67P containing. 

With this discovery made on Pluto, scientists had concluded that it still has Earth-like characteristics, despite being 30 times further away from the sun as the Earth. This had added to the pro-Pluto debate, with renewed calls for restoration in its planetary status, which been downgraded in August 2006 as it did not meet the three criteria the International Astronomical Union uses to define a full-sized planet. Recently, NASA chief said 'In my view, Pluto is a planet'.

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