If NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is correct, there may well be two icy volcanoes lying just beneath the surface of the (former) planet Pluto.
NASA explains the cryovolcano
The seven instrument payload launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006 may have just found a couple of volcanoes under the surface of Pluto’s south pole during its flyby this summer. Images, obviously, take a bit of time to reach NASA from that distance and analysis takes time as well.
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Scientists have named the two circular(ish) mountains with depressions in each of their centers: Write Mons has a subterranean height of somewhere between 3-5 kilometers, while Piccard Mons could be as much as 6,000 meters in height. From the pictures they look similar to the cryovolcanoes on Neptune’s moon Triton and others. Cryovolcanoes erupt with ice flows rather than lava.
The successes of the New Horizons mission
While many will question the wisdom of deep space explorations by NASA given the cost and the nation’s present debt levels as well as deficit spending. That’s all well and good but it should be pointed out that the budget for the New Horizons spacecraft was approved well before a debt of however many trillion engulfed the nation’s political parties to justify or look to shut down NASA’s spending.
The fact is, it worked. Four months ago and nine years from launch, the New Horizons spacecraft has done its job. Even if that job is, seemingly, to show members of the team how wrong they were.