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Clean water ice found on Pluto’s moon Hydra

Image: Hydra
An image captured during the New Horizons flyby in July 2015 shows Hydra, Pluto’s outermost moon. (Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

If you’re looking for a place to chip off an ice cube for a cool interplanetary drink, you can’t do much better than Hydra, Pluto’s outermost moon.

Newly released readings from NASA’s New Horizons mission reveal that Hydra’s surface is dominated by nearly pristine frozen water. It’s significantly purer than the mixed-up ice on the surface of Pluto – or even the water ice found on the surface on Charon, Pluto’s biggest moon.

The findings are drawn from the first compositional data relating to Pluto’s four smaller moons, including Hydra as well as Nix, Styx and Kerberos. The infrared spectral readings were acquired almost 10 months ago, when the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft flew past the Plutonian system. But the data had to stay stored in the onboard computer’s memory until only recently.

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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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