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‘Floating hills’ spotted on Pluto

Saturday, February 06, 2016

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has captured images of frozen nitrogen glaciers on Pluto carrying numerous 'floating' hills that may be fragments of water ice, giving an insight into the dwarf planet's fascinating and abundant geological activity.

These hills individually measure one to several kilometres across, according to images and data from New Horizons.

The hills, which are in the vast ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum within Pluto's 'heart,' are likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planum's western border.

They are yet another example of Pluto's fascinating and abundant geological activity, NASA said.

Since water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth's Arctic Ocean.

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