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.