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article imageX-ray mystery surrounds Pluto

By Tim Sandle     Nov 14, 2016 in Science
Houston - The dwarf planet Pluto continues to tantalize. This follows news that stream of photons have been detected streaming from the planet and into space. The mystery is the planet has no obvious way of making these high-energy photons.
Planets and other bodies like comets can generate X-rays through solar winds. This occurs when a stream of charged particles from the sun interacts with neutral gas atoms or magnetic fields generated from such bodies. Other bodies do not produce gas in this way, which means X-rays are not apparent. Pluto is such a body and it has no measurable magnetic field.
Researchers think there is a different reason for the production of X-rays. According to Dr. Carey Lisse, a scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory interactions between the solar wind and a tenuous tail of methane gas hundreds of times longer than Pluto’s diameter might be the culprit.
Dr. Lisse explained to Science News how the finding was made via the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The detection of photons contradicts the observations made from the New Horizons probe that recently passed by Pluto.
There is also a chance the readings are simply wrong, and that Pluto is not producing photons. The signal is low, the energy level is weak, and the number of photons ‘detected’ are very few. Moreover, the signal appears to follow Pluto across the sky.
Dr. Lisse hopes that further data, to be gathered from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite will provide further information. Whether other bodies exhibit similar effects is unknown, and the telescopic satellite could also look into this, including Pluto’s five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.
The findings are published online via The report is titled “The puzzling detection of X-rays from Pluto by Chandra.”
In related news, NASA scientists have recently detected clouds swirling around Pluto. These clouds are likely to be composed of ethane, acetylene or hydrogen cyanide.
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