Scientists at NASA are talking about the presence of a vast ocean under the icy surface of our solar system’s dwarf planet, Pluto, after delving into a heart-shaped feature on the planet’s surface.
Even though the temperature on the planet falls to almost minus 400 degree Fahrenheit, yet the scientists believe the ocean beneath the surface could be of liquid water or slushy ice.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made an unprecedented flyby of the dwarf planet and its moons in 2015. NASA scientists were probing the position of a 621-mile impact basin known as Sputnik Planitia, which contains an unusual heart-shaped region. Computer models found that the basin was filled with ice and the weight was causing the planet to roll on its axis resulting in cracks on the ice surface.
The researchers concluded that this meant that Pluto may contain a subsurface ocean.
Professor Francis Nimmo from the University of California, Santa Cruz, said,”Roughly speaking, it has got the same volume as the Earth’s oceans, because it is a lot deeper – it might be 100 km deep – but Pluto is smaller.”
The ocean that is suspected to be under Pluto’s icy surface is about 62 miles deep and is believed to lie 93 to 124 miles beneath the crust.
Richard Binzel, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has been studying the dwarf planet since the 1980s, said this was a surprising discovery, although Pluto has been known to throw up such unexpected findings regularly.
Water is essential for life and this water throws up the possibility that Pluto might be habitable in some distant future. Even though Pluto’s surface is covered with ice and chances of life are almost impossible, Binzel says that one must be careful while using the word impossible for Pluto.