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Young Mountain Range on Pluto Muddles Our Understanding of Plutonian Geology

posted: 07/15/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Mountains on Pluto
NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

New images released from yesterday's historic Pluto flyby reveal what NASA calls a "giant surprise": a range of mountains on the dwarf planet's surface that soar to heights of 11,000 feet.

Astronomers believe that the mountain range is less than 100 million years old and possibly still geologically active. Unlike older geological features, the range doesn't show evidence of millions of years of impacts from space debris.

"This is one of the youngest surfaces we've ever seen in the solar system," explains Jeff Moore, a member of New Horizons' Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team.

In a news release, NASA explains the geological mystery surrounding the mountain range: "Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape."

The mountains are likely comprised of water-ice, which behaves much like rock at the temperatures observed on the Plutonian surface.

Click here for more information from NASA

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