Pluto's frozen heart pumps out nitrogen wind
Pluto's vast pile of heart shaped nitrogen ice drives the dwarf planet's atmospheric circulation.
WASHINGTON — According to a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Pluto's frozen heart of nitrogen ice may be the main driver of the dwarf planet's winds.
Pluto's heart shaped Tombaugh Regio is a vast structure made of nitrogen ice and its left lobe Sputnik Planitia contains 1,000 km of ice sheet within its 5 km basin.
During the day, a thin layer of the frozen nitrogen evaporates in relative heat; at night, the gas condenses and returns to icy form.
The sequence pumps nitrogen wind through Pluto's atmosphere like rhythmic heartbeats.
As nitrogen in Tombaugh Regio vaporizes in the north and freeze into ice in the south, the process triggers a westerly wind.
Citing the study's authors, Phys.org says this behavior is unique in the entire solar system with perhaps the exception of Neptune's moon Triton.
The study's other discovery is that Sputnik Planitia's high cliffs trap winds within the basin before releasing the strengthened currents to the west.
The atmospheric movement is similar to certain wind patterns on Earth, such as the Kuroshio in Eastern Asia.
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