By Tessa Berenson
October 8, 2015

A NASA spacecraft has discovered that there is blue sky and red ice on Pluto.

New Horizons returned its first color images of Pluto’s atmosphere last week, according to a release by NASA, and the images show a bright blue haze. According to a NASA scientist, the color occurs when small particles in the atmosphere scatter light.

“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It’s gorgeous,” Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, said in the release.

But that wasn’t the only colorful finding in the new images: New Horizons also returned photographs of exposed water ice on Pluto’s surface, and the ice is often red. NASA scientists don’t yet understand the reason for this coloration.

 

Regions with exposed water ice are highlighted in blue in this composite image from New Horizons' Ralph instrument, combining visible imagery from the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) with infrared spectroscopy from the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), Oct. 8, 2015.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI—AP

Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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