Haze on Pluto lowers its global climate temperature 54º F


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Using data collected during New Horizons’ fly-by, scientists have found that the planet’s atmosphere is 54º F colder than predicted, and from this they theorize that the presence of haze in that atmosphere is what cools it.

Pluto’s atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen, with smaller amounts of compounds such as methane. High in the atmosphere — between 500 and 1,000 kilometres above the surface — sunlight triggers chemical reactions that transform some of these gases into solid hydrocarbon particles.

The particles then drift downward and, at around 350 kilometres above Pluto’s surface, clump with others to form long chemical chains. By the time they reach 200 kilometres’ altitude, the particles have transformed into thick layers of haze, which the New Horizons spacecraft saw dramatically blanketing Pluto.

Zhang and his colleagues compared the heating and cooling effects of the atmosphere’s gas molecules to those of its haze particles. Earlier studies have suggested that the presence of gas molecules, such as hydrogen cyanide, could help explain why Pluto’s atmosphere is so cold. But Zhang’s team found that including haze was the only way to get their model to match the temperatures that New Horizons measured as it flew by the dwarf planet.

This theory remains unproven. Moreover, there are other explanations proposed for the cold atmosphere by other scientists. It will take new instruments and future probes to resolve the question.

The post has been corrected. My math in calculating the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit was initially faulty. Thanks to reader Kirk for spotting the error.

Share

6 comments

  • Steve Earle

    I believe this may be the missing piece in the Global Warming Mystery…… The Plutocians have been beaming their excess heat energy at the Earth in retaliation for trying to hit them with a big chunk of metal…….

    Their diabolical scheme may yet succeed if we fail to heed the Prophet Gore ;-)

  • Kirk

    Cool (ha!) story, Bob. Thanks.

    But 90 F? Yes a temperature of 30 C = 86 F, but a temperature difference of 30 C is a temperature difference of 45 F.

  • Kirk

    Oops! Dyslexia strikes agian!

    delta-T: 30 C = 54 F (not 45 F)

    By why even bother with F in this context.

  • Kirk. Post fixed. Thank you.

  • Cotour

    Related:

    The Pope weighs in on the questioning of “Global warming” science, calls opponents “perverse” (Shouldn’t the Pope be more careful using the word perverse being the head of the Catholic religion?).

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/world/article/Pope-rebukes-climate-deniers-as-perverse-in-12361964.php

    Wouldn’t it be less divisive and polarizing if they would just start to reasonably talk about pollution in general and its effects, which most would agree with, and the need to clean up or improve techniques of production and advancing technology? Because these global warming agendas are really specifically focused on developed economies I.E. the biggest, America and the rest of the first world and are pushing the progression of Globalism and a One World type governing system from where I sit.

    Thats what I hear when I hear the likes of the Pope promoting this talking point and so I must oppose him and his agenda because he is attempting to force it through fear and not reason. The pope has chosen to become a name calling politician pushing a political position. I wonder what his opinion is on the situation going on on Pluto is? No political agenda no opinion?

  • LocalFluff

    During the campaign: “The pope? The pope!”
    https://youtu.be/CPR2sphV2W8?t=75

    “I like the pope”, yeah sure! Presbyterians were founded in the 1600s precisely in order to hang the pope and his kings. Draining the swamp as we would say today. No wonder Rome is worried and confused.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *