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Pluto's Moon May Have Had Underground Ocean

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#1    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 03:31 PM

Cracks in Pluto's Moon Could Indicate it Once Had an Underground Ocean


www.nasa.gov said:

If the icy surface of Pluto's giant moon Charon is cracked, analysis of the fractures could reveal if its interior was warm, perhaps warm enough to have maintained a subterranean ocean of liquid water, according to a new NASA-funded study.

Pluto is an extremely distant world, orbiting the sun more than 29 times farther than Earth. With a surface temperature estimated to be about 380 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (around minus 229 degrees Celsius), the environment at Pluto is far too cold to allow liquid water on its surface. Pluto's moons are in the same frigid environment.

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#2    Sundew

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 09:26 PM

Strictly guessing here, but I think that Pluto lacks the mass for a gravitational heating of its moon's water to keep it in a liquid state. Jupiter and Saturn both have gravity sufficient to keep water liquid on their moons, in fact the gravitational tug makes Io the most volcanically active body in the solar system. I would be somewhat doubtful of Charon having a liquid subsurface ocean.


#3    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 09:41 PM

View PostSundew, on 14 June 2014 - 09:26 PM, said:

Strictly guessing here, but I think that Pluto lacks the mass for a gravitational heating of its moon's water to keep it in a liquid state. Jupiter and Saturn both have gravity sufficient to keep water liquid on their moons, in fact the gravitational tug makes Io the most volcanically active body in the solar system. I would be somewhat doubtful of Charon having a liquid subsurface ocean.

There are two points to make here.

The first is that the article is talking about a subsurface ocean in the past tense, not about it existing now.

The second is that mass is not the only factor, distance between the objects is important too. In fact gravity obeys an inverse square law, so halve the distance and gravitational attraction is 4 times stronger, reduce the distance to a third and it's nine times stronger and so on. Charon orbits Pluto over 40 times closer than Io orbits Jupiter.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." - The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 1952 - 2001

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#4    Silent Trinity

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 02:06 PM

I would be inclined to say, yes why not? There are so many mysteries to the universe that even the true origins and compositions of the planetary bodies in our own solar system is broadly speaking still a mystery. We have had a tantalizing glimpse by various probes performing flyby's etc, but not the kind of exploration necessary, which would be a mammoth task to undertake.

I think therefore that it is entirely possible that Pluto has / had a subsurface ocean, and given what we do know and the extreme low temperatures, I would be amongst the camp that believes it was / is frozen. Of course not truly understanding the make up of Pluto, we do not know what type of core it has, and whether or not the geothermal energy produced by the core radiating out is enough to render any frozen subterranean ocean as a liquid, counteracting the extreme cold permeating from above the surface, and given the interesting bodies like Europa etc which are much nearer, the chances are it is the bottom of a very long list for us to actually discover...Interesting article nonetheless.

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