It’s a volcano unlike any you’ve ever seen.
Wright Mons, south of the feature known as Sputnik Planum on the surface of Pluto, is one of two possible volcanoes on the dwarf planet. These volcanoes — known as cryovolcanoes — aren’t spewing out lava, but rather icy material, such as ammonia and nitrogen.
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The volcano — named in honour of the Wright Brothers — was spotted on July 14, 2015, after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest fly-by of the dwarf planet.
This composite image of a possible ice volcano on Pluto includes pictures taken by the New Horizons spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015, from a range of about 48,000 km, showing features as small as 450 m across.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Wright Mons is about 150 km across and four kilometres high. Though planetary scientists have yet to confirm whether or not it is indeed a cryovolcano, if it is, it would be the largest in the outer solar system (it’s believed that Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is also home to cryovolcanoes).
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Pluto continues to intrigue scientists and Wright Mons is no exception: the scare distribution of the red material — believed to be tholins, soot-like, organic material and other compounds are exposed to ultraviolet light — around the area is perplexing, as is the fact that there is only one crater.