The Sands of Pluto
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
What would it be like, standing on the surface of Pluto? As a boy, fascinated by astronomy, I avidly devoured any books that I could about the planets. One of my favorites was called “Challenge of the Stars”, published in 1972, with text by TV astronomer Patrick Moore and space artist David A. Hardy. My copy was even given to me and signed by Mr. Moore himself. In the section on Pluto, Hardy had painted a scene where one seems to be looking out through the entrance of an icy cave. Icicles are hanging over the opening. The sky is black and full of stars, but one star is noticeably brighter than the others. The text told me that this was the Sun, appearing so far away, it just looked like the other stars, albeit a bit brighter. The text also told me that the ice was actually solid nitrogen – and so were the icicles.
Roll on 45 years. The New Horizons space mission has now visited Pluto and taken photographs, along with lots of measurements. This data from that 2015 fly-by is still being analyzed today. Research just published has suggested that nitrogen frost at the edge of Pluto’s ice plain has split the rock into tiny particles, looking like sand. Winds of methane have moved the grains into dunes. At -230°C, this must be the coldest beach property in the Solar System. It is truly amazing when we consider that Scripture refers to the universe as the work of God’s fingers.
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