Pluto’s atmosphere, new discoveries

From National Geographic:

Pluto Has “Upside Down” Atmosphere

Ker Than
for National Geographic News

March 6, 2009

Pluto, the solar system’s oddball, has an upside-down atmosphere compared with Earth. Temperatures rise, rather than drop, with altitude on the dwarf planet, a new study finds.

Astronomers recently made the most detailed measurements to date of the concentration of the greenhouse gas methane in Pluto’s atmosphere using the European Southern Observatory‘s Very Large Telescope.

The measurements showed that methane is the second most abundant gas in Pluto’s atmosphere, and that the gas is actually warmer at higher elevations than at the icy surface.

On March 6, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully launched the Kepler mission. Operated out of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado, it is the first mission, space-based or otherwise, designed to look for extrasolar planets en masse: here.

Large moon of Uranus may explain odd tilt: here.

Weird water lurking inside Uranus: here.

Uranus Celebrating 25th Anniversary of Flyby: here.

Uranus Bright Spot Intrigues Scientists, Leads Astronomers To Ignored Region: here.

NASA reported last month that Kepler, the first spacecraft dedicated to searching for planets beyond our solar system, has discovered its first five extrasolar planets. Though they are uninhabitable for Earth-like life—four of the five are even larger than Jupiter—their rapid discovery indicates that Kepler is fully capable of achieving its primary mission, finding a planet resembling Earth, in future years: here.

NASA has confirmed this month that its Kepler space observatory has now identified the smallest yet planet outside our solar system, exoplanet Kepler-10b: here.

Darkest exoplanet spotted by astronomers: here.

10 thoughts on “Pluto’s atmosphere, new discoveries

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