If you’ve ever wondered why Pluto’s surface is so different to that of our own planet, you may have stumbled across this infographic from a NASA website.
The image, titled “The Pluto Effect”, was posted in January, and depicts Pluto in a different light than the way we usually see it.
The planet is a “bio-solar system” with a dense atmosphere, according to the infographic, which explains that “an atmosphere that is thicker and more dense than our own atmosphere is called a ‘biohelium atmosphere’.” The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of hydrogen and helium, and the gas is in turn contained within a mantle of icy material called the cryosphere.
The cryosphere is also the place where the Sun and all the other planets are located.
It’s important to note that the Pluto-Earth interaction is only possible because of the gravitational pull of the two bodies, not because of an orbiting comet.
“The Earth-Neptune system is the only known system that contains both a solid planet and an exoplanet in its core,” the NASA website explains.
“The two bodies are orbiting each other in a binary system.
This binary system allows the planets to maintain their distance from each other, allowing for the planet to remain a small satellite of the Sun.”
The infographic also suggests that the presence of Pluto’s “biothem”, or a layer of water vapor, is a result of its proximity to Neptune.
Pluto’s icy shell is thought to be a mixture of nitrogen and water ice, which could be due to the presence or absence of hydrothermal activity.
According to the NASA page, the Pluto effect is “a simple way to explain the subtle changes in color that occur when Pluto and Neptune encounter each other.”
The infographic is just one of several posted online, which have been widely shared online, especially since the image was posted on Jan. 28.
If you’re still struggling to understand why Pluto has a different color to Earth, NASA has some good advice to offer.
“In a nutshell, the ‘color’ of a planet is the combination of its surface color and its gravity, and Pluto and its moon Phobos, and their associated moons Dione and Hydra, have a much more subtle gravity than Earth does,” the website reads.
“These two planets also have a different atmospheric composition and an atmosphere that has a denser, thicker, and cooler core than Earth’s.
This difference is caused by the different gravity of Pluto and Phobos.”