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New Horizons Pluto Probe May Find This Landscape On Dwarf Planet (VIDEO)

First Posted: 02/15/2012 10:03 am Updated: 02/16/2012 5:07 pm

In the video above, a tiny sun floats through the haze over rocky ground. It's a bleak and alien view, but that's no scene from a science fiction film—it's Pluto.

With the long-awaited Pluto probe, New Horizons, entering the "homestretch" phase of its journey, scientists expect to see a landscape something like the artist's conception above when the probe arrives.

The atmosphere was the trickiest part to depict. Until recently, we didn't know that the dwarf planet sweats methane into its atmosphere when the sun heats it up, making the outer atmosphere actually warmer than what's beneath.

But this video may be missing one unexpected feature: rings. Planetary Science Institute senior scientist Henry Throop published research in 2011 on the possibility of Plutonian rings, which would pose a threat to the New Horizons craft if they turn out to be present.

The probe may be on its "homestretch," but we'll likely have to wait until its expected flyby date, in July 2015, to know for sure if this video is accurate.

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Filed by Travis Korte  |