Pluto could host an ocean of water beneath its surface

Pluto was not considered a planet 17 years ago (NASA)

Pluto has long been considered the ninth planet in our solar system. But still In 2006 This frozen world is almost at the limit of our Sun's heat, It is no longer considered a planet by the International Astronomical Union and introduced a new type of science: minor planets.

Scientists know that Pluto's surface is very cold. So there is no possibility of life there. At such cold temperatures, water, essential to life as we know it, looks essentially like rock. However, some think that Pluto's interior is hot and may even have an ocean inside.

Pluto's equatorial diameter is approx 2,377 kilometers. That is, it is approximately 1/5 the width of the Earth. From an average distance of about 5.9 billion kilometers, Pluto is approximately 39 times farther from the Sun than Earth. From this distance, sunlight takes 5.5 hours to travel from the Sun to Pluto.

This is what the Sun looks like from Pluto

A study published in magazine Icarus It showed that the dwarf planet, which has a thin atmosphere composed mainly of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide, may have liquid inside.

That is why Dr Alex NguyenEarth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences Specialist at the University of Washington and Patrick McGovern A recent investigation by the Lunar and Planetary Institute of Houston suggested that a water ocean exists in a liquid state beneath Pluto's surface.

NASA scientists were able to make that claim after studying cracks and bulges in the basin's ice sheet, using mathematical models that demonstrate the presence of liquid beneath its surface. Sputnik Planitia of Pluto.

Polygonal Structures in Sputnik Planitia. Sublimational cooling is the engine that shapes the intriguing polygonal landscape of hydrogen ice in Pluto's large crater, Sputnik Planitia (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab).

The visit was the basis of the study National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) when it started its mission New Horizons on January 19, 2006, An unmanned probe that aims to fly above Pluto To take photographs, measurements and studies of the solar system.

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The first images were obtained seven years later, after it passed in 2015, recording its closest approach Just 12,500 kilometers from the dwarf planet Take a closer look at the ocean that covers the planet under a thick layer of nitrogen, methane and water ice.

The study was also measured The surface temperature of the planet is -232 C, Temperatures so cold that even gases like nitrogen and methane freeze. Therefore, water should not be in liquid form.

Pluto's mountains are covered in ice, but not for the same reasons as on Earth, as detailed in a new scan of data from the New Horizons Mission (NASA/JHUAPL).

“Pluto is a small body. It must have lost almost all of its heat shortly after its formation. So basic calculations say it's frozen in the core,” said Nguyen, who is conducting her doctoral research. University of Washington Olin Chancellor Fellow and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

But in recent years, including prominent scientists William B. McKinnon, Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences in Arts and Sciences, has gathered evidence that Pluto may have an ocean of liquid water beneath its ice. That assumption comes from several sources, including Pluto's cryovolcanoes, which spew ice and water vapor. Although there is still some debate, “It is now generally accepted that Pluto has an ocean” Nguyen said.

The new study examines the ocean in detail, though it's too deep beneath the ice for scientists to see. Nguyen and McGovern developed mathematical models to explain cracks and bulges in the ice sheets of Pluto's Sputnik Platina Basin. A meteorite impact site billions of years ago. Their calculations suggest that the ocean in this region is underlain by 40 to 80 km thick water ice, a protective blanket that prevents the interior ocean from freezing.

Photo of Pluto illuminated by the Sun (AP)

They also calculated the potential density or Ocean salinity Based on the fractures in the ice above. They estimate that Pluto's ocean is 8% denser than Earth's seawater, or about the size of Utah's Great Salt Lake. If you somehow reach Pluto's ocean, you can float effortlessly.

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As Nguyen explained, That degree of density explains the abundance of fractures found on the surface. If the ocean were significantly less dense, the ice sheet would collapse and create many more fractures than are actually observed. If the ocean is more dense, the fractures will be less. “We estimate a sort of Goldilocks zone where the layer density and thickness are just right,” he said.

Image provided by NASA Pluto (right) and the largest of its five moons (EFE) Charon

Space agencies have no plans to return to Pluto anytime soon, so many of its mysteries will remain for future generations of explorers. Whether it's called a planet, a planet, or one of many distant objects in the solar system, it's worth exploring, Nguyen said. “From my perspective, it's a planet.”

Pluto is orbited by five known moons, including the largest Sharon, which is about half the size of Pluto, is the largest satellite relative to a planet orbiting our solar system. That's why Pluto and Charon are often invoked “Twin Planets”.

Misty Tate

"Freelance twitter advocate. Hardcore food nerd. Avid writer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver."

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