Pluto may have huge ocean under icy surface

Pluto may have huge ocean under icy surface


Pluto may have a huge hidden ocean under its frozen surface, scientists have found.

New evidence, reported in two research papers published in Nature journal, suggests the existence of an ocean containing as much water as all of Earth's seas - which could potentially be a habitat for life.

The findings are based on observations by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which made an unprecedented flyby of the dwarf planet and its moons in 2015.

Scientists say the ocean, which is likely slushy with ice, is about 62 miles deep and believed to lie 93 to 124 miles beneath the planet's crust.

Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology planetary scientist and project researcher Richard Binzel said Pluto was not a prime candidate, due to its ocean being covered by so much ice.

However, he said that "one is careful to never say the word impossible".

Despite being about 40 times further from the sun than Earth, Pluto has enough radioactive heat left over from its formation 4.6 billion years ago to keep water liquid, experts said.


Pluto may have huge ocean under icy surface

University of California Santa Cruz planetary scientist Francis Nimmo, who also took part in the research, said: "Pluto has enough rock that there's quite a lot of heat being generated, and an ice shell a few hundred kilometres thick is quite a good insulator.

"So a deep subsurface ocean is not too surprising, especially if the ocean contains ammonia, which acts like an antifreeze."

Scientists made the discovery as they were trying to figure out why a 621-mile wide impact basin known as Sputnik Planitia, which contains an unusual heart-shaped region, was located in its present position near Pluto's equator.

Computer models showed the basin likely filled with ice, in turn causing the dwarf planet to roll on its axis, cracking its crust.

That could happen only if Pluto possessed a subsurface ocean, the analysis found.

Professor Nimmo said he suspected the ocean was primarily water with some ammonia or other "antifreeze" thrown in.

Slow refreezing of this ocean would conceivably crack the planet's shell - a scenario consistent with photos taken by New Horizons.

In September, astronomers discovered what they believed to be plumes of water spewing from the surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa, using the Hubble Space Telescope.



Add Comment

all comments

  Other news

more
Delaware resort towns fear Trump offshore drilling order

Delaware resort towns fear Trump offshore drilling order..

30-Apr, 15:40

Ralph Musthaler The Minnie V. skipjack sails through the Tangier Sound, a...

Donald Trump: N Korea's Kim Jong-un a 'smart cookie'

Donald Trump: N Korea's Kim Jong-un a 'smart cookie'..

30-Apr, 13:24

US President Donald Trump has described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un...

Kim Kardashian’s plastic surgeon CONFIRMS she has had work done on her backside and says it should serve as a warning to people who want surgery: 'It’s very big, maybe too big'

Kim Kardashian’s plastic surgeon CONFIRMS she has had work done on her backside and says it..

30-Apr, 11:43

The pictures appeared to confirm that airbrush plays a prominent role in...

David Cameron buys ?25,000 garden shed 'to write in'

David Cameron buys ?25,000 garden shed 'to write in'..

30-Apr, 06:27

David Cameron says he plans to write a book in a designer garden shed...

Internet-connected 'smart' devices are dunces about security

Internet-connected 'smart' devices are dunces about security..

08-Mar, 18:25

These days, it's possible to use your phone — and sometimes just your...

Turkey Tourism Suffering From Security Worries

Turkey Tourism Suffering From Security Worries..

31-Jan, 04:01

Official figures show Turkey's tourism revenue dropped nearly 30 percent...

Outsider Episode 8

Outsider Episode 8..

15-Feb, 03:41

The following Outsider Episode 8 English Sub has been released. Full HD...

Packy, Oregon's Beloved Elephant, Dies at 54

Packy, Oregon's Beloved Elephant, Dies at 54..

09-Feb, 15:22

Packy, the Asian elephant who drew international attention when he was...