We finally got a full-color view of Pluto’s skies—and they look awfully familiar.

Skies Are Blue

NASA just released its first color view of those planetary hazes they’ve been so curious about. And, it turns out that, just like Earth, Pluto has some bright blue skies arching overhead:

Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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Our own blue skies and the blue skies of Pluto definitely have some similarities—but there are also, of course, some truly alien differences:

“That striking blue tint tells us about the size and composition of the haze particles,” said science team researcher Carly Howett, also of SwRI. “A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles. On Earth, those particles are very tiny nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be larger — but still relatively small — soot-like particles we call tholins.”

Ice Is Red

Meanwhile, there’s another odd thing researchers found in this latest batch of photos. Remember last month, when NASA released this Pluto color portrait?

Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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Pretty striking, no? Particularly that big red splotch in the lower left corner. Well (just like Pluto’s blue sky) researchers attribute a lot of Pluto’s red color to tholin particles, which condense and get coated in frost before falling back down to Pluto’s surface.


Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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And it’s that big red splotch above that is exactly where they found water in the form of ice. Just why the ice is red remains a mystery, though—for now.