This is a picture of dry ice (frozen CO2) evaporating.
Click on image for full size
Why Pluto has an Atmosphere
Because the orbit of Pluto is so strange, Pluto is sometimes close enough to the sun for the ices on its surface to evaporate.
When Pluto comes close enough to the sun, the surface of solid Nitrogen evaporates to produce an atmosphere with winds and clouds. Because the planet does not have enough gravity, however, the atmosphere quickly drifts away.
By 1999, Pluto will leave the neighborhood of Neptune and drift further away from the sun in its orbit. As it gets further from the sun it will no longer produce an atmosphere. Thus it will soon be too late for humankind to study Pluto's unique environment. These are good reasons to explore Pluto now.
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