Astronomers Detect Icy Spider on Pluto


Radial fractures displayed in the form of a spider have just been spotted on Pluto.

BEACON TRANSCRIPTThe latest images of Pluto from NASA show a spider-like feature that stretches on the surface of the most distant planet in our solar system. This is the latest development on the series of oddities showcased by this so-called astronomical oddball.

One can clearly see in the pictures a series of red tendrils that are all radiating from the same central point, thus forming a spider. The images were captured back in July by the New Horizons spacecraft from NASA. While the strange sighting has sparked countless questions, scientists have little to work with at the moment. Oliver White, who is working with the geology team of New Horizons, has underlined the labyrinthine feature of Pluto:

Oh, what a tangled web Pluto’s geology weaves. The pattern these fractures form is like nothing else we’ve seen in the outer solar system, and shows once again that anywhere we look on Pluto, we see something different.”

New Horizons was launched back in 2006 and is the first spacecraft meant to visit the Kuiper Belt and Pluto. It has completed the first flyby of the dwarf planet in 2015, and since then the discoveries have constantly been flowing. For instance, the spacecraft has shown us that Pluto has mountains that feature methane snow and regions where liquid nitrogen used to gather into lakes. The planet also shows signs of erosion, which might be linked to the current spider mystery.

On the pictures, there are six visible fractures on its surface, of varying lengths. The longest one has been named Sleipnir Fossa and measures over 360 miles. The shortest one barely reaches sixty miles. Scientists have determined that landscape does not influence the fractures.

NASA has stated that the tendrils extend to the west and north across rolling, mottled plains which are featured in the high northern latitudes. However, they also stretch to the south, where they cut through Tartarus Dorsa, a “bladed terrain”.

This is not the first fracture discovered on Pluto. However, most of them run parallel to one another because of the expansion of the icy crust of the planet. The radial position of these tendrils suggests that material might be gathering up from below the surface. The fact that they are red is also considered an anomaly.

Image Source: Gizmodo