Scientists with NASA’s New Horizons mission say that at least a couple of the miles-high mountains on Pluto look as if they’re ice-belching volcanoes, providing further evidence that the dwarf planet is geologically active.
Although the case for cryovolcanoes isn’t yet rock-solid, it’s the “least weird explanation” for the observations of 2-mile-high Wright Mons and 3-5-mile-high Piccard Mons, said Oliver White of NASA’s Ames Research Center, a member of the mission’s geology team.
If the mountains’ status is confirmed, “that would be one of the most phenomenal discoveries of New Horizons,” White told reporters. “Whatever they are, they’re definitely weird.”
Pluto’s potential status as a volcanic world was just one of the revelations that came to light on Monday during a review of New Horizons’ latest discoveries at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in National Harbor, Md.
“The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down,” Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters, said in a news release about the findings.