Research Article

Dunes on Pluto

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Science  01 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6392, pp. 992-997
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2975

Methane ice dunes on Pluto

Wind-blown sand or ice dunes are known on Earth, Mars, Venus, Titan, and comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Telfer et al. used images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft to identify dunes in the Sputnik Planitia region on Pluto (see the Perspective by Hayes). Modeling shows that these dunes could be formed by sand-sized grains of solid methane ice transported in typical Pluto winds. The methane grains could have been lofted into the atmosphere by the melting of surrounding nitrogen ice or blown down from nearby mountains. Understanding how dunes form under Pluto conditions will help with interpreting similar features found elsewhere in the solar system.

Science, this issue p. 992; see also p. 960