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Probing the Mysterious Glacial Flow on Pluto’s Frozen ‘Heart’

8 Jan 2016, 18:17 UTC
Probing the Mysterious Glacial Flow on Pluto’s Frozen ‘Heart’
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

“Since its discovery, Pluto has proven consistently troublesome to the theorist.” –
– Sir Patrick Moore, The Observer’s Book of Astronomy (1971)
Written 45 years ago, these words are more appropriate today than Moore could have ever imagined. Greetings, I’m Dr. Orkan Umurhan, a scientist on New Horizons’ Geology and Geophysics Investigation (GGI) Team.
Pluto’s surface geology alone – from the bladed terrain of Tartarus Dorsa to the mysterious dark mound of Morgoth Macula (just to mention a few informally named features with perplexing geologies) – continues to stump all of us on the New Horizons Geology and Geophysics Investigation (GGI) team.
Over the last month, I’ve been examining numerous theoretical and modeling questions to attempt to explain the processes at work within Pluto’s frozen plains, known as Sputnik Planum (SP). In a separate, yet parallel vein, I’m also studying the nature of glacial flows onto SP from the highlands bordering its eastern shoreline. In this blog, I will talk about the glacial flow problem.
First, let’s look at some pictures of glacial flow on Pluto’s frozen plains.
A nearly top-down view of Pluto’s icy plains, showing dark lanes reminiscent of glacial moraines. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
This low incidence angle indicates ...

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