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Pluto probe sends back photos of possible ice volcano

NASA scientists named it 'Wright Mons' after the Wright brothers.
Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
January 17, 2016
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The New Horizons spacecraft might already be heading for a Kuiper belt object farther than Pluto, but it continues to give us a closer view of the dwarf planet. Some of the latest photos it sent back taken during the probe's closest flyby in July 2015 show what NASA scientists believe could be one of its icy volcanoes. NASA has named the land formation "Wright Mons" after the Wright brothers, and it's located at the bottom of Pluto's famous heart-shaped region.

Wright Mons is enormous, and with a measurement of 90 miles across and 2.5 miles high, it's a candidate for being the biggest volcano discovered outside our planet so far. It is, however, considerably smaller than Mauna Loa, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) volcanoes on Earth which stands 5.7 miles tall from base to summit. If Wright Mons is indeed a cryovolcano (another term for the land formation), then it doesn't spew out lava like the ones we're used to. Instead, it ejects a mixture of ice and gases, such as nitrogen, methane and ammonia.

[Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI]

In this article: pluto, science, space
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