March 8, 2016 1:46 pm
Updated: March 8, 2016 1:51 pm

Have scientists spotted clouds on Pluto?

Possible areas of clouds (indicated by the arrows). These are areas that Will Grundy indicated in his email seen by New Scientist magazine.

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
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Pluto fans everywhere, you may be excited about this possible discovery.

According to New Scientist, the magazine was privy to emails and images from NASA’s New Horizons team that indicates the once-planet Pluto may have clouds.

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“There’s a few fairly localized low-altitude features just above the limb that I’ve drawn lame arrows pointing to, but also a few bright cloud-like things that seem to be above and cutting across the topography in the circled area,” Will Grundy of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona wrote in an email.

According to the magazine, there was further discussion as to whether or not they were indeed clouds. The problem was that it was difficult to tell whether or not the observed features cast shadows on the ground below.

So far, there has been no public mention of the possibility that Pluto could have clouds. And it’s not as though the scientists will be able to gather any new data: New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015 at a speed faster than 50,000 km/h and won’t be returning. The New Horizons science team will continue to sift through existing data and gather images and information.

Pluto’s haze is seen here in this photo taken by New Horizons in July 2015.

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

However, New Horizons still has a load of data to send back to Earth, so there could be further images that could shed light on the cloudy situation.

As for what clouds on Pluto might be comprised of, there is a thin atmosphere surrounding the dwarf planet that contains primarily nitrogen. There are also other gases such as carbon monoxide and methane.

If it’s confirmed that Pluto has clouds, that might revive the debate over whether or not Pluto should be considered a planet. Once the ninth planet in our solar system, the small world was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union.

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