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A new contender for the Red Planet? Except, you’d have to say “planet”

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http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/pluto-20100204.html

Nasa’s just revealed that Pluto’s getting redder – though I’d say it’s more yellowy, but perhaps there’s a special shade of science-red that I can’t see.

Nonetheless, If you’re interested in the geeky details behind the colour change, NASA’s press release says:

The overall color is believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto’s surface, leaving behind a dark and red carbon-rich residue.

Part of what caught my eye in this story, pretty and oddly 3-D pictures aside, was that the pictures were actually taken in 2003, but we’re only hearing about them now. I read somewhere, but now can’t find the article again, that Buie, the NASA man responsible, didn’t want to reveal them until he’d studied them properly and was sure it wasn’t a mistake.

I love that approach – it’s one good antidote to bad science journalism and its unfounded claims (cf the Facebook group about things that the Daily Mail has said cause cancer). If you don’t give them a press release in the first place, they can’t butcher the discovery.

Also, someone pointed out to me that every single article on the topic included somewhere that Pluto’s no longer a planet. Either they think there is someone out there who’s been in a hole for the last ten years and doesn’t know that yet… or they just want to rub it in. Cruel.

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