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During the summer of 2015, scientists and the public alike were treated to a flood of images and discoveries about Pluto as the New Horizon spacecraft made an unprecedented flyby of the dwarf planet. The discoveries about Pluto didn't stop with the initial results that were released. Rather, the New Horizons spacecraft will provide scientists with years worth of discoveries of this cold and distant world.

While New Horizons is accomplishing much on its own, there is even more science to be uncovered when other telescopes join the effort. This is the case for X-ray observations of Pluto made by the Chandra X-ray Observatory as New Horizons made its approach and then flew by Pluto.

The Chandra data show that Pluto has surprisingly high amounts of X-ray emission for a cold and rocky planet that has no known significant magnetic field. While X-rays have been detected elsewhere in the Solar System -- including comets, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter - it appears that Pluto's X-rays are not generated in exactly the same way as these other objects. Rather, the researchers suggest that the X-rays from Pluto come from the interaction of gases in Pluto's atmosphere and the stream of particles from the Sun known as the solar wind. Scientists hope to learn more about Pluto and other objects in the outermost regions of our Solar System with future observations.
[Runtime: 02:19]

(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)




Return to Pluto (September 14, 2016)