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Photos of Pluto Reveal a Toy Store of Surprises

Stashed in: space, Space!, Pluto

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Imagine what it must take to blow the mind of a space scientist.

Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, the mission's chief scientist, says that icy, soaring peaks on Pluto should "send a lot of geophysicists back to the drawing boards." It's not what the smartest people expected to see.

These pictures also show Pluto to be a relatively unblemished babe among celestial bodies. It has those ice mountains, but no impact craters — as they're called — caused by the crash of meteorites or other flotsam from space. The scientists say this suggests that Pluto could still smolder below its surface, swelling with energy from the decay of radioactive material, or even an underground ocean.

Ice mountains... Ice volcanoes.. A smoldering radioactive core... An underground ocean.

Feels like we've hit the science fiction mother lode.

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