Convective nitrogen cells on Sputnik Planitia. Darker material is thought to be irradiated methane and older ices. Image credit: New Horizons/NASA/SwRI. 

Convective nitrogen cells on Sputnik Planitia. Darker material is thought to be irradiated methane and older ices. Image credit: New Horizons/NASA/SwRI. 

Sputnik Planum/Planitia, named after the significant Soviet Union artificial satellite from 1957, is the prominent heart-shaped lobe on the front of Pluto's icy surface. This mysterious basin still has plenty of questions for years to come, but what we do know at this time is quite spectacular! Here are some facts about Pluto's "beating heart":

1-The surrounding geology (North, South, East, West) areas are all different! The North part has graben scars, West has the dark, reddish-brown are known as Cthulhu Regio, South has possible volcanics, and East has an array of sublimation pits. 

2-There are no craters in this region, indicating an age less than 10 million years!

3-There are possible dark wind streaks, which is a tell-tale sign of sublimation by seasonal and mechanical weathering processes. 

4-Most of the surface has large polygonal-shaped areas, currently thought to be convection cells rising and falling very slowly, showing us the youth and behavior of young nitrogen ice in-fill within this basin. 

5-This is not the original spot. Geophysicists believe that a large impact created the basin in the northern part of Pluto at just the right angle and strength to tilt Pluto to an equilibrium, or calmer spin, to where we see it now.  More on this here: https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2016/pdf/2348.pdf

Convective cells and sublimation pitting patterns and interactions. Image credit: New Horizons/NASA/SwRI. 

Convective cells and sublimation pitting patterns and interactions. Image credit: New Horizons/NASA/SwRI. 

Thank you for reading and we Plutonians are excited for discovering more with our dwarf planet! Come back next week for a look at Planet (re?)-classification!