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Pluto Surrounds Itself In Bands Of Blue Haze

First Posted: Jan 14, 2016 03:18 PM EST

Pluto has decided to surround its atmosphere in bands of blue. NASA researchers have gathered a high-resolution colored image of Pluto where the frigid planet atmosphere is wrapped in a blue haze, according to a news release.

The image is shown in real color, however it was constructed from a mosaic of four panchromatic images, which was captured using the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) four-color filter data. These images were gathered with NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015 with a resolution of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel.  

The researchers believe that this blue haze is actually a photochemical smog, which was produced from a reaction with sunlight on methane and other molecules that occupy Pluto's atmosphere. As a result, a complex combination of hydrocarbons like acetylene and ethylene is produced. These hydrocarbons eventually become small particles (about a fraction of a microcenter) where they disperse sunlight which creates the vivid blue haze in the image.

These particles disperse over hundreds of miles on Pluto's atmosphere. These haze layers spread to altitudes of over 120 miles (200 kilometers).

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