Pluto Turning Redder

Hubble photos reveal major changes on ex-planet's surface
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2010 2:10 AM CST

(Newser) – Astronomers haven't been ignoring Pluto since its demotion to "dwarf planet" in 2006, particularly now that it's putting on a color show for scientists. Newly processed images from the Hubble Space Telescope have given scientists their best view yet of Pluto, which is 20% redder than it used to be. The new hue, which changed dramatically in a single 2-year period beginning in 2000, is believed due to changes in surface ice as Pluto enters a new phase of its orbit.

Pluto experienced more surface changes over the period than any other object studied in the solar system, including Earth. "It's a surprise to see these changes happening so big and so fast," a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute tells the BBC. "This is unprecedented." Astronomers plan to keep a close eye on Pluto, believing it will yield clues about other objects in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune.

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