Much of the data returned by New Horizons has revealed Pluto to have an incredibly complex geology, with ice mountains and massive canyons. New information, via New Scientist, suggests the planet’s strange atmosphere is just as weird and mysterious. Also, it could have clouds.
The report, which includes a few new images, apparently reveals a discussion between researchers contemplating the possibility of clouds above Pluto. We already knew the planet had a surprisingly complex atmosphere, with layers of haze and the whole nine yards. Never did we expect there to be individual clouds.
“There’s a few fairly localized low-altitude features just above the limb that I’ve drawn lame arrows pointing to, but also a few bright cloud-like things that seem to be above and cutting across the topography in the circled area,” wrote Will Grundy, of the Lowell Observatory, in an email to a colleague.
You can see the image Grundy is referring to above. The clouds are faint but they do appear to be there. Obviously, it’s difficult to get the weather report from across the solar system, but it does look like clouds formed when the images were taken last year.
Researchers haven’t publicly confirmed the existence of clouds on Pluto, which could mean they aren’t entirely sure if what they’re seeing is legit. For that matter, scientists aren’t even sure what these clouds are made of if they are indeed clouds.
New Horizons still has a ton of information to beam back to Earth, so there’s a possibility we can get a definitive answer later this year. For now, just admire the images above and catch up on some of the other Pluto breakthroughs in the posts below.