Pluto Has a Buried Ocean — And So Might Many Other Worlds

Space.com | 5/20/2019 | Mike Wall
kimberly163kimberly163 (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/i6DjUcekotdQzJp6Ps2CXm-1200-80.jpg

Buried oceans like the one thought to slosh beneath the icy surface of the dwarf planet Pluto may be incredibly common across the cosmos.

A gassy insulating layer probably keeps Pluto's liquid-water ocean from freezing solid, a new study reports. And something similar could be happening under the surfaces of frigid worlds in other solar systems as well, study team members said.

Oceans - Universe - Existence - Life - Author

"This could mean there are more oceans in the universe than previously thought, making the existence of extraterrestrial life more plausible," lead author Shunichi Kamata, of Hokkaido University in Japan, said in a statement.

The bright “heart” on Pluto is located near the equator. Its left half is a big basin dubbed Sputnik Planitia.

Structure - Pluto - A - Clathrate - Gas

The proposed interior structure of Pluto. A thin clathrate (gas) hydrate layer works as a thermal insulator between the subsurface ocean and the ice shell, keeping the ocean from freezing.

The bright “heart” on Pluto is located near the equator. Its left half is a big basin dubbed Sputnik Planitia.

Structure - Pluto - A - Clathrate - Gas

The proposed interior structure of Pluto. A thin clathrate (gas) hydrate layer works as a thermal insulator between the subsurface ocean and the ice shell, keeping the ocean from freezing.

The case for a subsurface ocean on Pluto is bolstered by the location of Sputnik Planitia, a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) plain of nitrogen ice that forms the left lobe of the dwarf planet's famous "heart."

Observations - NASA - New - Horizons - Probe

Observations by NASA's New Horizons probe showed that Sputnik Planitia is aligned with Pluto's tidal axis — the line along which the gravitational pull from the dwarf planet's biggest moon, Charon, is most powerful. Scientists think that Pluto rolled into this orientation because of extra mass concentrated at and near the surface in the Sputnik Planitia region.

That extra mass likely comes from the nitrogen ice that's built up...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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