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Nov 20 2014

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Hmmm…it never occurred to me that a chemist would be excited about our visit to Pluto

But of course he would be.

Imagine the Earth’s nitrogen-dominated atmosphere moved about 30 times farther from the Sun than where you are right now. At that distance, the temperature is so low (-380 F, -229 C, 44 K) that the nitrogen gas, and other components of the atmosphere, would freeze into solid form, and that’s what we see on Pluto.

We also know that two carbon-containing materials are present with Pluto’s frozen nitrogen, namely methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO). And intriguingly, Pluto’s surface has been bombarded with cosmic rays, high-energy radiation, for over four billion years, which will alter the surface’s composition and appearance in ways we can barely discern with even our most powerful telescopes.

So that’s what New Horizons will encounter next year, a world with a surface dominated by solid nitrogen, carbon compounds, and radiation-chemical products unlike any planet yet visited

As if I could get anymore excited about the New Horizons mission!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2014/11/20/hmmm-it-never-occurred-to-me-that-a-chemist-would-be-excited-about-our-visit-to-pluto/

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