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Earth-like dunes of icy methane found on Pluto

The mountain range on the edge of the Sputnik Planitia ice plain, with dune formations in the bottom half of the picture.
Ridges of dune formations on the mountainous edge of Pluto's Sputnik Planitia ice plain. Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Despite its thinner atmosphere and lower gravity, Pluto is home to icy dunes resembling those on Earth, according to research published today in the journal Science.

The big picture: Pluto's surface is far more dynamic and diverse than researchers expected before NASA's New Horizon's spacecraft flew closely past it in 2015. The finding also suggests similarities between the dwarf planet and our own.

"It gives us further information about our own planet’s formation — the world we’re all standing on right now."
— Matt Telfer, geographer, University of Plymouth