Clouds on Pluto? Pictures spark discussion

Image: Pluto's limb
An image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft last July 14 shows the edge of Pluto and its atmospheric haze, including what appears to be a light wispy cloud toward the right side of the image. (Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI via New Scientist)

Even before NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past Pluto, scientists thought they might see clouds in its thin atmosphere – and now a couple of pictures suggest they were spotted.

One of the pictures from last July’s flyby, published by New Scientist today, shows what appears to be a light-colored wisp amid the dwarf planet’s haze.

Michael Buckley, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told GeekWire that the science team is still discussing the data.

“What the team can say at this point is Pluto’s atmosphere, including hazes, is complex, and scientists continue to analyze and discuss incoming data as part of the normal science process,” Buckley said in an email. “As always, we’ll post a feature just as soon as we have more analysis and consensus.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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