‘Surprising’ methane dunes found on Pluto
Scientists also believe the dunes, which seem undisturbed, likely formed within the last 500,000 years, possibly much more recently.
On Earth, to form such dunes with sand requires stronger winds, said co-author Eric Parteli, lecturer in Computational Geosciences at the University of Cologne.
“The considerably lower gravity of Pluto, and the extremely low atmospheric pressure, means the winds needed to maintain sediment transport can be a hundred times lower,” he said.
On Pluto, solar radiation also causes temperature gradients in the granular ice layer, which contributes to the ability of dunes to form.
“Together, we have found that these combined processes can form dunes under normal, everyday wind conditions on Pluto,” Parteli said.