How Pluto keeps its secret ocean warm

Popular Science | 5/21/2019 | Staff
ziggy1023ziggy1023 (Posted by) Level 3
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While “insulation” is an easy way to understand what’s going on, it’s not as though the gas is working in the same mechanism as, say, insulation stuffed inside drywall. As ice forms, its molecular structure solidifies and expands into a crystalline formation. Sometimes gas molecules become trapped inside “cages” of ice called clathrates. When clathrates form, they increase the thermal insulation properties of ice 10 times over. They’re able to keep the ocean warm and the icy shell cool, preventing ice flow.

“Clathrates look pretty much like regular ice, but if you light them, they burn quite nicely,” says Nimmo. The gassy molecules in these clathrates are thought to be methane, surrounded mostly by water. The clathrates probably form as they capture methane molecules bubbling up from below as the ice shell slowly thickens. “Where the gas molecules come from is a good question,” he says.”They might either be left over from when Pluto originally formed, or they might have been formed by reactions in Pluto's silicate core as it warmed up.”

Kamata - Nimmo - Colleagues - Models - Computer

Kamata, Nimmo, and their colleagues validated the models through computer...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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