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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
This is an image of Pluto.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA

A Look at Pluto's Atmosphere

It may seem hard to believe that Pluto could have an atmosphere because it is so cold, but it does. Because there are times when Pluto is closer to the sun than is Neptune (making it the 8th planet for roughly 20 years at a time), ices on Pluto's surface evaporate and form an atmosphere.

The air is made mostly of nitrogen gas, just like that of the Earth and Saturn's moon Titan.

The atmosphere is also similar to that of Neptune's moon Triton.. On Triton there are seasons and winds. On Pluto, there may even be clouds and storms. However, seeing these clouds and winds on Pluto is difficult.

It is also possible that the presence of nearby Charon draws molecules to it which are escaping from Pluto's atmosphere, as suggested in this image. So this double planet may exchange atmospheric molecules.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA