Pluto, our solar system’s poor demoted dwarf planet, really seems to be full of surprises. New Scientist claims to have seen emails that suggest Pluto does indeed have clouds, not just an atmospheric haze.
The emails started last September, around the time when NASA publicly released images showing Pluto’s hazy glow. Though, it was difficult to tell with the available images obtained from the New Horizons mission whether what they were seeing was truly evidence of clouds hovering above Pluto’s surface, because it was hard to tell whether the clouds were leaving shadows. That is, until March 1, when John Spencer, a scientist with the Southwest Research Institute sent a new email with a newly downloaded image from New Horizons attached, suggesting strongly that these might indeed be clouds.
What’s the difference between clouds and haze, you ask? “One way to think of it is that clouds are discrete features, hazes widespread,” wrote Alan Stern, the principle investigator with New Horizons, according to New Scientist. It remains to be seen what these clouds might be made of (probably some mixture of nitrogen), and whether this might help the dwarf planet’s bid for earning back its place in our solar system. To take a peek at these potential clouds yourself, head over to New Scientist.