Strange blades of ice and snoware forming at high altitudes on glaciers, reaching up to 5 metres high. Scientists have reason to believe that these “penitentes” are affecting the rate at which glaciersare melting. In this article I will beexplaining how these penitentes form,why scientists around the world arefascinated by them, and how theyare being found outside our planet. Before I explain why these penitentes are so special, I need to explain how they are even formed. They form onhigh-altitude glaciers, in places suchas the Andes Mountains where the airis dry. This exact formula is needed fora process called sublimation to happen.Since the temperatures are low on theglaciers, there are strong winds, andthe air pressure is low, it makes for the perfect mixture. Sublimation is whenthe sun’s rays directly turn ice into water vapor. This affects the smooth snow surface, as it starts to randomly form depressions because some parts sublimatefaster than others. Due to the fact that the holes in the snow have curves, the curves concentrate the sunlight and cause thedepressions to get even deeper. These points in between the depressions then overtime become penitentes. The spikes of ice and snow are called penitentes because they look like people doing penance. Now that we know how the penitentes aremade, we can find out why scientists areso interested in them. These spikes whenlooked at a microscopic level actually resemble the spikes that can be found onsolar panels to maximize their sunlight absorption. Scientists have reason to believe that studying these penitentes further might help them create more efficient solar panels. On top of that, since these penitentes can absorb sunlight well due to their spikes, they are slowing down therate at which our glaciers are melting. Not only that, but the penitentes shadows slightly cool down the surface they are on! Penitentes form in groups so they cancast entire shadows onto glaciers. Oncepenitentes reach above -4 degrees celsius, their growth slows dramatically. Since penitentes are heavily slowing down glaciersmelting rates, if they begin to disappear, wemight see glaciers melting at a much faster rate than ever before. Last but not least, scientists have beenfinding these penitentes outside of earth!On January 4th, 2017, scientists discoveredthat Pluto’s surface was full of penitentes.The reason they form so well on Pluto is because Pluto’s environment is an even better formula for sublimation. It’s much cooler, the air pressure is very very low,and it is much windier than Earth. Thismixture on Pluto creates penitentes thatare about 500 metres (1,600 feet) tall, and are about three to five kilometers (two to three miles) apart. The presence of pentities on Pluto can tell researches more about how its surface and air temperature is changing over time, which can help them learn more about dwarf planets as a whole.