Poisonous carbon monoxide gas has been discovered in the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto, after a worldwide search that lasted nearly two decades, according to a new study that also detected the planet's atmosphere extendingmuch higher above the surface than previously thought.
A British-based team of astronomers, led by Jane Greaves of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, found a strong signal of carbon monoxide gas in Pluto's atmosphere using the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. [Photos of Pluto and Its Moons]
In the new study, scientists found that the carbon monoxide gas on Pluto is extremely cold, at about minus 364 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 220 degrees Celsius). The team was also surprised that the signal is more than twice as strong as an upper limit predicted by a separate group of researchers who used the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Spain in 2000.[Infographic: Inside Dwarf Planet Pluto]