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Pluto might be harbouring an ocean underneath its surface, thanks to a layer of gassy material that would stop it from freezing over.
NASA spacecraft images of Pluto have shown the presence of an icy basin that experts think could overlie an ocean.
Calculations - Sea - Hundreds - Millions - Years
However, calculations suggest that any such sea should have frozen solid hundreds of millions of years ago due to the frigid temperatures on Pluto.
Researchers believe an insulating layer of gassy material may be keeping the ocean warm — a possibility supported by new models of Pluto's evolution.
Insulating - Layers - Bodies - Space - Oceans
If these gassy insulating layers exist on other bodies in space, this could mean that there are far more potentially-life-supporting oceans in the universe.
Images of Pluto have revealed the presence of a white-coloured basin located near the equator, Sputnik Planitia, under which it is thought an ocean might exist.
Calculations - Ocean - Planet - Surface - Hundreds
However, calculations suggest that any ocean under the dwarf planet's surface should have frozen over hundreds of millions of years ago.
To reconcile these two findings, an international team of researchers led from Japan's Hokkaido University have suggested that the ocean might be covered by an insulating layer of gas hydrates that is keeping the sea from freezing solid.
Gas - Hydrates - Solids - Pockets - Gas
Gas hydrates are ice-like solids in which tiny pockets of gas become trapped in molecular water cages, giving them a low thermal conductivity that could provide insulating properties.
To investigate whether such a gas layer could be keeping an...
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