Hubble's pics of Pluto: Dark orange and charcoal-black

by Carolyn Gramling
Thursday, January 5, 2012

NASA, ESA and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

Blogging on EARTH

Today NASA released new Hubble images of dwarf planet Pluto — and far from being just an icy colorless rock, the images show a mottled, dynamic, orangey-black world that changes color with the seasons (on Pluto, the change of seasons lasts 248 Earth years — and although on Earth the seasons change due to the axial tilt of the planet, Pluto's eccentric, non-circular orbit plays a big role in its seasonal variations).

For example: From 2000 to 2002, the dwarf planet got redder while its northern hemisphere got brighter, probably due to (nitrogen) ice melting at one pole and then refreezing at the other pole. From ground-based observations, we already knew that the mass of Pluto's atmosphere also changes, possibly due to the warming and melting ice.

To take a look at more Hubble images of Pluto, go here.

There's also video! Check it out here.

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