A research team from Brown University has been studying photos sent back from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft that seriously suggests that their is almost certain to be a huge ocean beneath all of that surface ice on Pluto. A thermal evolution model was used by the research team and they theorize that if Pluto’s great oceans froze millions of years ago, that may have caused the entire planet to shrink and become much smaller than it was. Now, however, it seems to scientists that Pluto has actually begun to expand.
Noah Hammond, Brown’s leading author on the study said, “Thanks to the incredible data returned by New Horizons, we were able to observe tectonic features on Pluto’s surface, update our thermal evolution model with new data, and infer that Pluto most likely has a subsurface ocean today.”
Pluto, it has been recently learned, has layers of various types of ice from methane to water to nitrogen. There is also a huge plain and mountain ranges that stand hundreds of feet high. It is the numerous faults, however, that got the team at Brown interested in the possibility of an underground ocean. The scientist theorized further that a subsurface ocean would, indeed, cause the planet to expand.
Hammond said, “We don’t see things on the surface that we would expect to see if there had been a global contraction. So we conclude that ice II has not formed so that the ocean hasn’t completely frozen.”
The researcher believe that Pluto’s ice shell is thicker than 260 kilometers. This would provide the needed insulation that the underlying ocean would need to prevent itself from freezing so far out from a star. This new model proposed by the Brown team now postulates that liquid water can be located further out into the solar system than previously thought.
“That’s amazing to me, ” continued Hammond. “The possibility that you could have vast liquid water ocean habitats so far from the sun on Pluto, and that the same could be possible on other…objects as well, is absolutely incredible.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay