we still looked back, like Lot’s wife in her pride.
Your secrets now laid out for all to see
as new horizons dawn on your dark side.
Your surface stretches out like a black sea
and icy peaks jut out like tears now dried.
With nitrogen and methane in your air
we search in faith for what might not be there.
Notee: This is an Ottava Rima, written about recent research by the New Horizons space probe, which performed a flyby of Pluto in July, 2015. The probe has since reported back on the existence of an atmosphere (mainly made up of methane and nitrogen), a series of snowcapped mountains stretching across the dark expanse of the dwarf planet's ‘Cthulhu region’, and the possible presence of clouds. You can read more about the New Horizons mission here.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
Sam Illingworth, PhD, is a senior lecturer in science communication at Manchester Metropolitan University, in the U.K., where his research involves using poetry to enhance dialogue between scientists and nonscientists. You can find out more about Sam's work by visiting his website.