A group of scientists have discovered evidence of “the building blocks of life” on the surface of Pluto. Using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph researchers discovered evidence of complex organic molecules which may be responsible for giving the planet its ruddy color.
Space.com reports that the discovery was made when researchers noticed that a substance on Pluto was absorbing more ultraviolet light than expected.
Study leader Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said:
“This is an exciting finding because complex Plutonian hydrocarbons and other molecules that could be responsible for the ultraviolet spectral features we found with Hubble may, among other things, be responsible for giving Pluto its ruddy color.”
According to Space.com, Pluto orbits along several other icy objects, which are also red, in what is known as the Kuiper belt. Researchers believe that organic compounds may exist on several objects in the Kuiper belt.
Researchers will be able to get a closer look at Pluto in a few years when NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft visits the dwarf planet.
“The discovery we made with Hubble reminds us that even more exciting discoveries about Pluto’s composition and surface evolution are likely to be in store when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraftarrives at Pluto in 2015.”
The Daily Camera reports that the New Horizon was launched on its 10-year journey to Pluto in 2006.
Glen Fountain, New Horizons project manager at the Johns Hopkins University, said:
“We’ve come a long way across the solar system,” said “When we launched, it seemed like our 10-year journey would take forever, but those years have been passing us quickly. We’re almost six years in flight, and it’s just about three years until our encounter begins.”
New Horizon won’t land on Pluto, but it will come within 8,000 miles from the dwarf planet.