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NASA reveals glowing clouds in latest Pluto image

by Brandon Russell | June 4, 2016June 4, 2016 3:00 pm PDT

It’s almost been a year since NASA’s New Horizons breezed by Pluto, but the spacecraft is still beaming back new information. On Thursday, the interplanetary probe shared an image of Pluto taken just a few minutes after its closest approach on July 14, 2015.

While we’ve seen many images like the one up above in the past, the angle of the photo, along with the sun’s light, reveals a glowing patch hovering over the planet’s surface. NASA highlights the pertinent area in the gallery above.

The inset at top right shows a detail of Pluto’s crescent, including an intriguing bright wisp (near the center) measuring tens of miles across that may be a discreet, low-lying cloud in Pluto’s atmosphere; if so, it would be the only one yet identified in New Horizon’s imagery.

NASA surmises the cloud—they’re not 100 percent that’s what it is—is likely visible due to the sunlight behind the planet. According to the agency, methane clouds occasionally form in Pluto’s atmosphere, which could be what you’re seeing above. Previously, scientists observed methane snow on the planet, so it all makes sense.

Since flying by Pluto last year, New Horizons has returned some incredible data. This is yet another reason why the distant planet is so fascinating.

Pluto still rocks

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...