Underground ocean found on Pluto

According to the two research papers published in journal Nature, Pluto harbors a hidden ocean beneath the frozen surface of its heart shaped central plain with as much water as all earth’s seas. The discovery was done by analysis of images and data collected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft which passed Pluto and its moons in July, 2015 and now it is headed into Kuiper Belt, the icy region of the Solar System beyond Neptune’s orbit.

This discovery puts Pluto in the list of worlds other than earth with underground water or oceans which could be potential enough to be habitats for life. This Pluto’s ocean is slushy with ice lies 150 to 200km along the surface while 100 km deep.

Pluto is not considered as a candidate for life due to its ocean covered with much of ice. But it does not guarantee that the life in Pluto is impossible. Even though 40 times farther from the sun than the earth it has enough radioactive heat left to keep water liquid.

This discovery was made while the scientists were figuring out a 1000km wide impact basin called as Sputnik Planitia with heart shape is located in its present location near to Pluto’s equator. Sputnik Planitia is a circular region in the heart’s left “ventricle” and is aligned almost exactly opposite Charon. In addition, Pluto and Charon are tidally locked, which results in the objects always showing the same face to each other.Computer models showed the basin likely filled with ice, which caused Pluto to roll over, cracking its crust.

New Horizons, which is about the size of a baby grand piano, was launched on 14 January 2006 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. After its flyby of Pluto, mission scientists identified a second target – an icy Kuiper Belt body called 2014 MU69 – which the probe should reach in 2019.

Pluto ocean

(Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

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