Water in the Universe: the ice mountains of Pluto

Pluto seen by New Horizons.

Pluto seen by New Horizons. Credits: NASA/JHUIAPL/SwRIygen and carbon.

A mantle of water ice is probably enclosing Pluto’s rocky core. Images captured by NASA’s New Horizons mission revealed that part of this water ice is visible at the surface.

Water ice concentration in Pluto
Water ice concentrations in Pluto

At the temperature of 235 ºC below zero, that reigns on Pluto’s surface, water ice may behave like rock and form uplands and even mountains that have been found to reach 3 km above their surroundings.

Across Pluto’s surface, other more volatile ices encircle or cover these formations, such as iced nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane.