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Hydra, Pluto's Moon Covered In Nearly Pure Water Ice

First Posted: May 11, 2016 04:40 AM EDT
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In June of 2005, experts have discovered Pluto's outermost moon, Hydra. It is thought to have formed four billion years ago in a massive impact event that created Pluto and Charon. Now, a new analysis found that the planet's stellar companion is coated in nearly pure water ice.

Tech Times reported that recent findings were taken from the new and first compositional data obtained by NASA's New Horizon spacecraft on Pluto's moons. Scientist's said that despite its age, the 31-mile-wide moon appeared remarkably clean and bright in New Horizons images during the spacecraft's historic close pass through the Pluto system in July 2015.

Their initial prediction was proven right when data from the spacecraft was analyzed and showed that Hydra, like its name, is covered in nearly pure water ice. The data was taken from around 150,000 miles away by the Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument onboard the spacecraft.

"Perhaps micrometeorite impacts continually refresh the surface of Hydra by blasting off contaminants," said Simon Porter, a New Horizons science team member from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. "This process would have been ineffective on the much larger Charon, whose much stronger gravity retains any debris created by these impacts."

According to Discovery News, infrared spectra's findings revealed that Hydra's water ice spectral signature is much stronger than the one observed in Pluto's much bigger moon, Charon. This suggested that Hydra has darker and less dusty material as well as bigger ice particles. The team is also hoping to find a similar result on Pluto's other moons, so they can compare the spectra on Charon and Hydra's confirmed data.

The mysteries of Pluto continue to baffle the scientific community. Moreover, the debate about its planetary status has kept its drive since the 2006 decision by the International Astronomical Union, which downgraded Pluto to the status of a dwarf planet.

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