There may be a dispute in the scientific community over whether Pluto deserves to be a planet, but researchers have found evidence that the dwarf planet may have had an ocean billions of years ago.
The study, published in Nature Geoscience, suggests that Pluto may have been hot enough when it was forming to allow liquid water to exist on its surface. The researchers used simulations of thermal models and photographic evidence of extensional faults taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to arrive at their findings.
“For a long time, people have thought about Pluto’s thermal evolution and the ability of an ocean to survive to this day,” study co-author and UC Santa Cruz professor Francis Nimmo said in a statement. “Now that we have images of Pluto’s surface from NASA’s New Horizons mission, we can compare what we see with predictions from different models of thermal evolution.”
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“If it started cold and the ice melted internally, Pluto would have contracted and we should see compression characteristics on its surface, whereas if it started to heat up it should have expanded as the ocean froze and we should see extension characteristics on the surface ” The study’s lead author, Carver Bierson, added. “We see a lot of evidence of expansion, but we don’t see any evidence of compression, so the observations are more consistent with Pluto starting with a liquid ocean.”
If Pluto formed in less than 30,000 years, it would have “started warming up,” meaning the liquid ocean would have developed early in the celestial object’s existence.
If it took a few million years, “a warm start would only be possible if the large impactors [asteroids] they buried their energy deep below the surface, “the researchers added in the statement.
Pluto is widely believed to have formed in the scientific community 4.5 billion years ago.
By analyzing the faults, ridges, and other possible characteristics of a lost ocean on the dwarf planet, the researchers also noted that other planets and objects in the Kuiper Belt, including dwarf planets like Eris and Makemake, may also have had oceans. too.
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“Even in this cold environment so far from the sun, all of these worlds could have formed hot and fast, with liquid oceans,” Bierson explained.
A structure on the dwarf planet, known as Sputnik Planitia or the planet’s “beating heart,” causes nitrogen winds to blow. Nitrogen is the majority of Pluto’s atmosphere, combined with carbon monoxide and methane.
During the day the nitrogen ice heats up and turns into steam, but at night it condenses and turns into ice.
Pluto, which has a multi-layered atmosphere, moons, and other characteristics commonly associated with planets, is influenced by Neptune’s gravity, causing it to lose its planet status in 2006.
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However, several members of the scientific community, including NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, have argued that it should be a planet and not a dwarf planet.
NASA first passed Pluto in July 2015 with its New Horizons mission. Throughout that year, the space agency released a series of images of Pluto, including the first close-up image of an area near the equator of the dwarf planet, containing a chain of mountains that rise up to 11,000 feet above the surface. Pluto frost.
In late 2019, NASA announced that it had funded a study to see if another orbital mission to Pluto is feasible.
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