The remote dwarf planet has replenished the list of bodies of the Solar system with the underground sea.
Scientists have obtained the first evidence that Pluto, located approximately 4 billion miles from the Sun, has an underground ocean and thawed ice.
It is believed that the sea hides 93-124 miles under the giant Pluto shock basin, known as Sputnik Planitia, located within the heart-shaped region of Tombo.
According to preliminary estimates, the ocean is 62 miles deep. This was announced by planetary scientist Francis Nimmo of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The evidence from the ocean, which was reported in a couple of Nature’s articles this week, are captured and analyzed images collected by NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft. It flew past Pluto, its main Charon satellite and four smaller moons in July 2015.
Scientists are trying to figure out how Sputnik Planitia is formed and why it occupies its present position (approximately 18 degrees north of the equator of Pluto).
Research shows that billions of years ago a comet or object from the Kuiper Belt crashed into Pluto, which formed a reservoir on the surface. Then the recess was filled with ice nitrogen, which caused the dwarf planet to change, highlighting the crackle of the crust in the process. After all, the defects created mountains and canyons on Pluto. The best explanation for what happened is computer models. They show how everything looks if Pluto has an underground layer of melt water pushing out a thin crust.
“If you place extra weight on the surface, then Pluto will roll over to shift the weight to the equator, to a point opposite Charon. It is located very close to the site of Sputnik Planitia. So this place should be extra weight, even if it is a hole in the ground, ”Nimmo wrote in a letter.
“This type of gravity anomaly with thin bark and the extra weight of a dense thawed ocean led to pressure. This seems to be the most effective explanation, ”added Richard Binzel, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“We know that there is liquid water on Pluto. After all, we see it frozen on the surface. We see giant icebergs the size of a mountain, which somehow have to climb up, and we know that water and water ice are in an active state. This is what gives us an idea of the thawed layer, ”said Binzel.
Pluto formed with the rest of the solar system around 4.6. billions of years ago, it has enough internal heat left over from the decay of naturally occurring radioactive materials to melt frozen ice. Of course, the presence of a liquid ocean will raise the prospects for life on Pluto. But Binzel said that we could hardly find something there. The ocean is buried too deeply, and it is not as active as the global ocean on Europe, the satellite of Jupiter, or Enceladus Saturn.
Most likely, the meaning of the ocean on Pluto says only that "water is water everywhere." “Every time we learn something new about the processes in nature, it helps us to reconsider other worlds and even better understand our own planet,” he said.
Slow reorientation of Pluto may still be underway. Studies show that Sputnik Planitia can eventually be located directly at the equator of Pluto.