The online Financial Times Deutschland reports that a British team of astronomers, led by Jane Greaves of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, have found strong evidence of global warming of Pluto’s atmosphere using the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. They also detected carbon monoxide in its atmosphere.
The researchers also say that new findings show that Pluto’s atmosphere extends to more than 1860 miles (3000 km) above the surface - or a quarter of the distance out to its largest moon, Charon. Before it was thought to be only 100 km thick. Greaves will present the new discovery today at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Wales.
Pluto’s atmosphere appears to have expanded due to warming. Greaves says:
The change in brightness over the last decade is startling. We think the atmosphere may have grown in size, or the carbon monoxide abundance may have been boosted.”
The Financial Times writes;.
Pluto’s extremely low density atmosphere has a fragile balance made up of the coolant carbon monoxide and the greenhouse gas methane. It is probably the most sensitive in the solar system, Greaves said.”
The far away dwarf planet is probably currently experiencing climate change, said Greaves. ‘We believe that the expansion of the atmosphere has grown. in 1989 Pluto passed its closest point to the sun in its orbit. Probably the stronger solar radiation vapourised additional ice and the atmosphere expanded.”