The Other Red Planet

nh-7-2-15_pluto_globesMars is red because of iron oxide in the planet’s soil. Why is Pluto red? We don’t know yet, but the best guess is that it’s the result of UV light and cosmic rays interacting with hydrocarbons on the Pluto’s surface. We’ll learn more about the planet as the New Horizons spacecraft flies by on 14 July.

Image Credit: NASA

3 thoughts on “The Other Red Planet

  1. Whoa, wait a minute……aren’t hydrocarbons organic molecules?
    I know my chemistry is decades old rusty, but aren’t organic molecules formed from decomposing organic matter, as in living things.
    Can hydrocarbons form in the absence of life?
    Or are hydrocarbons the foundations not the result?

    • Of course those hydrocarbons are organic. Evil men haven’t been to Pluto with our nasty pesticides, so the whole planet is certified organic. Also non-GMO.

      For a more serious answer, simple hydrocarbons such as methane are very common in the solar system; the gas giants all have trace amounts of methane in their atmospheres. Simple hydrocarbons and amino acids are needed to start life; life then makes them into more complex hydrocarbons and amino acid chains (protiens, DNA, etc)

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