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Science. 2018 Jun 1;360(6392):992-997. doi: 10.1126/science.aao2975.

Dunes on Pluto.

Author information

1
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, UK. matt.telfer@plymouth.ac.uk.
2
Department of Geosciences, University of Cologne, Pohligstraße 3, 50969 Cologne, Germany.
3
Department of Geological Sciences, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA.
4
Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.
5
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA.
6
Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.
7
University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA.
8
Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ, USA.
9
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA.
10
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ 85726, USA.
11
Department of Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
12
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD, USA.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

The surface of Pluto is more geologically diverse and dynamic than had been expected, but the role of its tenuous atmosphere in shaping the landscape remains unclear. We describe observations from the New Horizons spacecraft of regularly spaced, linear ridges whose morphology, distribution, and orientation are consistent with being transverse dunes. These are located close to mountainous regions and are orthogonal to nearby wind streaks. We demonstrate that the wavelength of the dunes (~0.4 to 1 kilometer) is best explained by the deposition of sand-sized (~200 to ~300 micrometer) particles of methane ice in moderate winds (<10 meters per second). The undisturbed morphology of the dunes, and relationships with the underlying convective glacial ice, imply that the dunes have formed in the very recent geological past.

Comment in

PMID:
29853681
DOI:
10.1126/science.aao2975

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