Ocean On Pluto?
Cracks in the ice at Plutoâ€™s surface suggest the existence of subsurface oceans, scientists have claimed.
15:52 17 November 2016
Two new scientific papers suggest that Pluto’s icy heart may be hiding a subsurface ocean. Based on observations from Nasa’s New Horizon probe, scientists believe that a frozen nitrogen pile-up may have altered Pluto’s tilt, creating cracks and tensions in the crust, which in turn point towards the presence of a hidden sea.
Francis Nimmo, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, said: 'It's a big, elliptical hole in the ground, so the extra weight must be hiding somewhere beneath the surface. And an ocean is a natural way to get that,'
Richard Binzel, one of the researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that due to the ice that covers Pluto, the planet is not a primary candidate for life but admits its not impossible.
He added: 'It shows that nature is more creative than we are able to imagine, which is why we go and explore,' Binzel said. 'We see what nature is capable of doing.'
Another paper, which was also published in Nature, argues for reorientation and points to fractures on Pluto. James Keane at the University of Arizona said: 'There are two ways to change the spin of a planet,' doctoral student Keane explains.
'The first - and the one we're all most familiar with - is a change in the planet's 'obliquity', where the spin axis of the planet is reorienting with respect to the rest of the solar system.
'The second way is through true polar wander, where the spin axis remains fixed with respect to the rest of the solar system, but the planet reorients beneath it.'
'Each time Pluto goes around the sun, a bit of nitrogen accumulates in the heart,' Keane said.
'And once enough ice has piled up, maybe a hundred meters thick, it starts to overwhelm the planet's shape, which dictates the planet's orientation.