The Ice Dunes of Pluto

Diverse terrain on the surface of Pluto
Image credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SWRI

A recent paper on the surface discoveries of Pluto have made interesting (and also currently mysterious) observations concerning the diversity of Pluto's terrain. Using images from the New Horizons space probe, astrophysicists were able to identify dunes in the Sputnik Planitia region on Pluto. These dunes, which are similar in appearance to the ones on Earth actually bear no resemblance in terms of their substance. 

The dunes on Pluto are thought to have been formed out of methane ice, rather than our familiarity-friendly Earth dunes which are made out of sand. But don't forget! Pluto lies almost 40 times the distance that the Earth lies from the Sun, with temperatures going down to -240°C (which explains the ice!) and also has next to no atmosphere, making strong planetary winds an impossibility. Tiny, sand-sized particles of this ice have been hypothesized to have been transported by small < 10mph Pluto winds relatively recently (geologically speaking) to have formed linear, regularly-spaced ridges.

More research into how the diversity in Pluto's terrain has developed can give scientists more knowledge concerning planetary evolution.