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Space & Astronomy

Pluto may have always had a subsurface ocean

By T.K. Randall
June 24, 2020 · Comment icon 7 comments

Could life exist within Pluto's watery interior ? Image Credit: NASA
Scientists now believe that Pluto may have had a 'hot start' and has always had a subsurface ocean.
When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft performed a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015, it found, not a barren wasteland, but a world filled with a bewildering array of complex and varied surface features.

Since then, scientists have determined that, like Europa and Enceladus, Pluto is likely to be home to a vast subsurface ocean of liquid water that could have the potential to support primitive organisms.

While previously it was thought that this ocean was formed over a long period of time by the heat produced by radioactive elements in Pluto's core, a new study has cast doubt on this idea, instead suggesting that Pluto had much hotter origins and that its subsurface ocean may have in fact been around since the beginning - increasing the likelihood that life could have emerged there.
"When we look at Pluto today, we see a very cold frozen world, with a surface temperature of about 45 Kelvin," said study lead author Carver Bierson from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"I find it amazing that by looking at the geology recorded in that surface, we can infer Pluto had a rapid and violent formation that warmed the interior enough to form a subsurface water ocean."

Determining the potential habitability of such an ocean however remains challenging.

"At this point, we don't know the ingredients or recipe needed for life to emerge on any world," said Bierson. "[But] we think liquid water is an important ingredient, and this work suggests Pluto has had that for a long time."

Source: | Comments (7)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Orphalesion 4 years ago
Plutonian there's a far-out idea!
Comment icon #2 Posted by Seti42 4 years ago
The Mi-Go from The Whisperer in Darkness find it a satisfying home. They call it Yuggoth, not Pluto, though.
Comment icon #3 Posted by khol 4 years ago
"Water is not a luxury of Earth, in fact, it is the most abundant compound in the universe because it is composed of the first and third most abundant elements, hydrogen and oxygen, respectively." Shouldnt be to surprising to find water in any form throughout the universe. We ourselves are water beings... composed of 60% or more.  Yet on Earth 1 out of every 3 people do not have access to fresh drinking water...despite the quote above it remains a luxury to some [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by jethrofloyd 4 years ago
Pluto comes from the Pluto!
Comment icon #5 Posted by Orphalesion 4 years ago
You know, if I had designed the Solar System, I would have made it so that every planet and moon and dwarf planet has multicellular life on it, even if it was just fungus/algae/worms or something. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Festina 4 years ago
Why is this deemed worthy of study? Truly,, the human race is a mess.  And yet, much energy and money is spent on curiosities and mysteries  that material science will never comprehend at the rate they are going. It’s almost over folks.  And I can hardly wait till it ends.  It’s been a long journey.   My feet hurt.  
Comment icon #7 Posted by DirtyDocMartens 4 years ago
When they say subsurface ocean, do they mean it�s a large body of water, or water that is permeating through rock and such? Seems like that would greatly affect the kind of life that could develop.

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