This artist’s illustration shows NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in the outer solar system. In the background lies the Sun and a glowing band representing zodiacal light, caused by sunlight reflecting off of dust. At the top of the image, indicating the spacecraft’s position, is a bright spot. We still don’t know what this bright spot is—its origin, its target, or whether it reflects sunlight from the ice layer close to Pluto. NASA

Now that we've found this streak of light and found that this core feature is partly dirt, the next big chunk of information resides at Pluto's north pole.

Have astronomers found Pluto's wildfire?

New Horizons scientists have observed flash vapors (sulfur burns) in this region and proposed that they're influenced by the chemical reactions experienced inside Pluto, explains Diego Restuccia of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and lead author of a 2013 study about the flash-fire.

While they're still awaiting confirmation, they do find that these features are getting brighter.

"Because of the nature of the geologically active region, we wonder if we will be able to follow the next "flash fire" with JHUAPL very clearly by the end of 2015," says Restuccia. "New Horizons has uncovered the first signatures of elements and compounds being produced in nature on Pluto."

The geologists have called these bright flashes Nitrogen-ice boulders about 50 to 100 meters long. These rocks burn with wildfire: they brighten and then streak into flash fires hundreds to thousands of times brighter than the sun. This methane compound could be produced in geologic processes on Pluto.

This research may yield clues to our own planet's past.

"The nitrogen-bearing materials in Nitrogen-ice trees on Earth could be readily identified as creating these spectacular (flash, fire) glow features in the Earth's tropics," says astronomer Nitzschke of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

In another noteworthy paper in Nature Geoscience, op-eds by other authors in Nature: "Aquiferous glacial deposits on Pluto," by Michal Kortenkamp of MIT and colleagues, suggests that the Kuiper Belt objects captured in nearby Pluto's orbit are probably the rocky remnants of vortices created by tidal forces of sunlight on impacts.

A YouTube video shows the New Horizons Voyager 1 telescope going "beyond the edge" of Pluto in 1989. The video shows not only what the telescope saw, it shows also its "lifetime," the brightness of the image as it travels outward from Pluto. Tsiolkovsky during this period was
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