Over the past few months, scientists have uncovered several new details about Pluto’s complex and mysterious geology: ice volcanos, floating hills, deep canyons, hazy skies, and maybe even methane snow. Now, research published on Thursday suggests there’s liquid water hiding beneath the planet’s frozen surface.
Pluto’s subsurface ocean is something it has in common with many other moons in our galaxy, including Saturn’s Enceladus, Jupiter’s Europa, and even Mars. This whole time we thought Pluto was weird and unusual, but the latest data makes our home planet look like the odd man out.
“It’s interesting that only Earth wears its ocean on the outside,” explained Alan Stern, lead scientist of New Horizons. “From the surface, we don’t see them. Who knew that oceans would turn out to be fairly common?”
If there’s water, does that mean there’s the potential for life? According to planetary scientist William McKinnon, there’s always the possibility though it’s unlikely.
“All we can say is that we think that Pluto has an ocean and we think that this ocean has survived to the present day,” McKinnon said. “You certainly couldn’t rule [life] out, but anything about life on Pluto is simply speculation.”
Since flying by Pluto last year, New Horizons has continued to send information back to Earth and will continue to do so throughout 2016.
Near Pluto’s heart lies a red-stained region called Cthulhu, which NASA estimates stretches a whopping 1,850 miles long and 450 miles wide; it’s been staring us in the face ever since New Horizons made its flyby last summer. So why is this a particular area of interest? According to NASA, one of Cthulhu’s mountain ranges […]
Remember that dreamy picture of Pluto’s blue haze? NASA his week released a follow up, and it looks like something straight out of a Star Wars movie. And if that wasn’t pretty enough, the agency released a close-up of the distant planet that appears to show off a possible ice volcano. What’s amazing is that the […]
Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto in July, NASA’s New Horizons captured what is now the most beautiful image of the dwarf planet. And that’s saying a lot, because the courageous spacecraft has also sent back some truly spectacular pictures—my favorite is this silhouette after New Horizons successfully made its historic flyby. […]
We already know Pluto features a surprisingly complex geology, but data returned by New Horizons still continues to stump scientists. In a new image shared by NASA on Thursday, the agency revealed a strangely captivating scene of Pluto’s north pole, revealing an impressive amount of canyons and pits. NASA says that many of the canyons, which […]