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Does Pluto have a subterranean ocean ?

Posted on Wednesday, 16 April, 2014 | Comment icon 17 comments

New Horizons will arrive at Pluto in July of next year. Image Credit: NASA
A new theory suggests that Pluto, like Europa and Enceladus, may be home to a liquid water ocean.
Its small, its distant and we don't know a whole lot about it, but in July 2015 NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will provide us with the first direct look at Pluto and help to answer some of the enduring questions that still surround this tiny, enigmatic world.

One thing that scientists are particularly interested in is whether Pluto possesses a subterranean ocean of liquid water, something that could have been made possible thanks to the heat produced during the collision that formed its moon, Charon.

This same series of events may have also given Pluto a temporary tectonic system, something that scientists will be looking for evidence of when New Horizons arrives next year.

"It would probably be surprising if we didn't see tectonism," said geophysicist Jeffrey Moore.

Source: | Comments (17)

Tags: Pluto, Ocean, New Horizons

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by DieChecker on 17 April, 2014, 0:43
LIke A-A's picture above shows, if Pluto was mostly water, then wouldn't the pressure of the miles and miles of ice above cause water to retain a liquid form? Another option is if there are radioactive materials at Pluto's core, then that could also warm up water to the point of being liquid.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Sundew on 17 April, 2014, 1:29
I would put money on Pluto surprising everyone in the same way the Grand Tour of the outer planets and moons surprised the scientists. I hope the mission is successful and nothing goes haywire, it takes such a long time to get there and I don't know if any other craft is planned for a Pluto mission. I don't know the mission parameters, I assume it's a flyby and not orbital which is a shame, but that's what the physics and fuel supply dictate I suppose.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 17 April, 2014, 2:16
That is correct, although the fact that it is a fly-by could have a bonus. NASA are looking for Kuiper Belt Objects which would be in a suitable orbit for New Horizons to make an additional Fly-by of.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 17 April, 2014, 2:44
The exact opposite in fact. As the pressure increases water can remain solid at a higher temperature. Given Pluto's small size I'm not sure it would have a large enough concentration of radioactive materials at it's core to still maintain it in a molten state, but we shall see in just over a year.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Jyre Cayce on 17 April, 2014, 2:53
Comment icon #13 Posted by DieChecker on 17 April, 2014, 4:26
Science Fail on me.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 17 April, 2014, 4:53
I had to google a phase diagram to check if I was right. I used to know this stuff.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Perceptivum on 18 April, 2014, 13:58
Like you have to ask, please.
Comment icon #16 Posted by taniwha on 21 April, 2014, 11:32
You are right about the pressure of ice, that mixed with geothermal or tectonic action more than likely equates to water. Are you aware of the groundbreaking research led by the russians in antartica? This research at lake Vostok is considered a blueprint of sorts for similar missions to pluto or other moons. I heard they might deploy a cryobot or water submersible to fathom the depths - similar to what is envisioned for outer icy worlds. You might find this interesting as I did.

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